In a retrospective study of 67 elderly bipolar patients the first manic attack occurred at about age 60, often after a long period from the time of the first affective episode, after which further depressive episodes occurred. This calls into question Perris' criteria for unipolar diagnosis. Among the men, a preponderance of cerebral-organic disorders was found. The evidence for sub-classification of bipolar disorders into secondary or symptomatic manias is discussed. The recurrent nature of the illness in old age stresses the need for further evaluation of lithium prophylaxis.