Objective: To characterize how rehabilitation goals of older patients change over time and to explore professionals’ attitudes toward patient-centered goal-setting and their perspectives on rehabilitation goals. Design: Qualitative interview study. Setting: Three geriatric rehabilitation centers. Subjects: Ten patients (aged ⩾ 80), who had recently received inpatient geriatric rehabilitation, and seven professionals were purposively recruited. Methods: Semi-structured interviews. Patients were interviewed in the third or fourth week after discharge from inpatient rehabilitation, to reflect on their inpatient goals and to investigate long-term goals now that they were at home. A thematic analysis was performed. Results: During inpatient rehabilitation, participants’ main goals were regaining independence in self-care activities and going home. Post-discharge, patients were not at their baseline functioning level. Rehabilitation goals appeared to shift over time, and once at home, patients formulated more ambitious rehabilitation goals that were related to regaining full independence and being able to perform activities. Although professionals thought goal-setting together with the patient is important, they also stated that older individuals often are either unable to formulate goals or they set unrealistic ones. In addition, professionals indicated that goals have to be related to discharge criteria, such as performing basic self-care activities, and rehabilitation revolves around getting patients ready for discharge. Conclusion: During inpatient rehabilitation, patient goals are related to going home. After discharge, patients have ambitious goals, related to their premorbid functioning level. Rehabilitation services should distinguish between goals that are important while patients are inpatient and goals that are important after discharge.