The variation in functional outcome in schizophrenia appears to be exaggerated in late life. The cognitive and functional deficits commonly seen in younger schizophrenic patients appear to worsen in some cases in late life, while others patients appear to have a stable course of illness without functional decline, and still other patients have been reported to have essentially no residual symptoms in their later years. Cognitive and functional deficits appear to worsen more significantly in patients with a lifetime course of severe functional deficit. Despite the profound functional and cognitive deficits in these patients, neuropathologic studies have found no evidence of typical causes of severe cognitive impairments. This paper reviews the current findings on cognitive and functional changes in aging in schizophrenia, with a specific focus on patients with a poor lifetime functional outcome. Copyright (C) 1999 Society of Biological Psychiatry.