Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Dotage Definition:

The gradual and inevitable deterioration of cognitive functioning caused by aging.

Related Terms: Non Compos Mentis

The inevitable phenomena of deterioration of cognitive abilities associated with aging and old age. One refers to he or she "being in" his or her "dotage", as if it were a stage in life.

Dotage does not necessarily mean that the person is incapable of making decisions for himself or herself but simply that they are suffering from a completely natural and unavoidable yet variable degree of deterioration of mental faculties resulting the age of their body and mind.

Also described as a stage in life as one approaches old age:

"The evidence of the defendant in this case shows him to be a most simple-minded man, almost in his dotage, I should say."1

dotageIn one additional opinion of the Missouri Court of Appeals, dotage is referred to by Justice Hogan in the following context:

"Defendant testified he could read the summons at the time it was served upon him. The evidence permits the conclusion that he realized the summons was an important paper which he put in a place of safekeeping until a very distant relative could explain it to him. The defendant was 84 years of age, but dotage, which is that deterioration of mental faculties resulting from old age, does not necessarily mean that the person suffering therefrom is non compos mentis."2


  • NOTE 1: Ray v Wilson, unreported but available online here as at June 22, 2014. This is a 1911 decision of the ONCA written by Justice Roger Conger Clute.
  • NOTE 2: Young v Smith, 648 SW 2d 916 (1983)

Categories & Topics:

Always looking up definitions? Save time with our search provider (modern browsers only)

If you find an error or omission in Duhaime's Law Dictionary, or if you have suggestion for a legal term, we'd love to hear from you!