We conducted comprehensive neuropsychologic assessment in normal 60- to 88-year-old persons and in patients with dementia of various causes, matched for age and sex. Patients with dementia performed significantly poorer on tests of short-term memory, temporal orientation, visual perception, and language. Further data analysis, including multivariate classification procedures, identified a combination of three tests (Visual Retention, Controlled Oral Word Association, and Temporal Orientation) that in a cross-validation study correctly classified 89% of cases with a high degree of probability. Only 6.5% of cases were misclassified, while 4.5% were in a questionable, borderline category. The battery constituted by these three discriminating tests provides a brief, easily administered neuropsychologic screening instrument that may be used by a variety of health professionals for the detection of abnormal mental decline in older persons.