With ageing populations, it becomes increasingly important to understand the determinants of cognitive ability among the elderly. We apply survey data of 17,070 respondents from ten countries to examine several domains of cognitive functioning at ages 60+, and we link them to the macro-economic deviations in the year of birth. We find that economic conditions at birth significantly influence cognitive functioning late in life in various domains. Recessions negatively influence numeracy, verbal fluency, recall abilities, as well as the score on the omnibus cognitive indicator. The results are robust; controlling for current characteristics does not change effect sizes and significance. We discuss possible causal social and biological pathways.