The clinical and serologic characteristics of 17 patients with onset of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) after age 50 were compared with those of 49 younger patients. All patients were followed prospectively for a mean duration of 47 months. A clinical and serological data base was established for each patient, and information collected at each visit to a lupus clinic was analyzed by computer. The clinical featured distinguishing old-age SLE were a low incidence of significant renal disease and prominent pleuropericarditis and arthritis throughout the period of followup. Serologic abnormalities were milder in older patients. Thus, hypocomplementemia, anti-DNA antibodies, and C1q precipitins occurred less frequently, and rheumatoid factor was more often present than in younger patients with SLE. Regression analysis suggested linear change in disease expression with age rather than distinct age-related subgroups.