Background/aim Polypharmacy and inappropriate medication use in older adults is a major public health problem associated with morbidity and mortality. Aging is associated with metabolic changes and decreased drug clearance, increased drug-drug interactions, prescribing cascades, and potentially inappropriate medication (PIM) use. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the association between a common geriatric syndromes and PIM use among older adults. Methods Study participants were recruited among patients admitted to Istanbul Medical School Geriatrics outpatient clinic between June 2000 and June 2014 and were evaluated retrospectively by a geriatrician using the patients' records according to Beers 2012 criteria. Results Among the 667 enrolled patients, 421 (63.1%) were women and 246 (36.9%) were men. The use of PIM was not associated with age or sex. Polypharmacy (OR 4.86, 95% CI 3.25-7.27, p < 0.001), malnutrition (OR 2.69, 95% CI 1.52-4.76, p = 0.001), depression (OR 2.61, 95% CI 1.7-3.95, p < 0.001), presence of fall in the previous year (OR 2.24, 95% CI 1.51-3.32, p < 0.001), and dementia (OR 1.69, 95% CI 1.08-2.65, p = 0.021) were independently associated with the use of PIM. Discussion/conclusions The results of our study suggest that PIM use is independently associated with presence of polypharmacy, malnutrition, depression, falls and dementia in older outpatients. Identifying the association of inappropriate medication use with common geriatric syndromes in older people can help to prevent, delay, and reduce PIM use and related adverse health outcomes.