Cell senescence is the limited ability of primary human cells to divide when cultured in vitro. This eventual cessation of division is accompanied by a specific set of changes in cell physiology, morphology, and gene expression. Such changes in phenotype have the potential to contribute to human ageing and age-related diseases. Until now, senescence has largely been studied as an in vitro phenomenon, but recent data have for the first time directly demonstrated the presence of senescent cells in aged human tissues. Although a direct causal link between the ageing of whole organisms and the senescence of cells in culture remains elusive, a large body of data is consistent with cell senescence contributing to a variety of pathological changes seen in the aged. This review considers the in vitro phenotype of cellular senescence and speculates on the various possible routes whereby the presence of senescent cells in old bodies may affect different tissue systems.