The authors studied the pattern of functional abilities and decline of skills in adults with cerebral palsy. The data source was the California Developmental Disabilities data base, which included 904 subjects of age 60. For those individuals who are mobile when they become adults, there is a marked decline in ambulation, especially in late adulthood, and few of the 60 year-olds who walked well preserved this skill over the following 15 years. Older subjects frequently also lost the ability to dress themselves. Many other skills, however, seemed to be well preserved, including speech, self-feeding and the ability to order meals in public. Whereas the great majority of young adults lived in their families' home or in small private group homes, 18% of the 60 year-olds lived independently or semi-independently, and 41% resided in facilities providing a higher level of medical care. Survival rates of the ambulatory older adults were only moderately worse than the general population. Survival was, however, much poorer among those who had lost mobility.