Although telomere length (TL) is known to play a critical role in cellular senescence, the relationship of TL to aging and longevity in humans is not well understood. In a large biracial population-based cohort, we tested the hypotheses that elderly persons with shorter TL in peripheral white blood cells have poorer survival, shorter life span, and fewer years of healthy life (YHL). Associations were evaluated using Cox proportional hazard models and linear regression analyses where appropriate. TL (in kilo base pairs) was not associated with overall survival (hazard ratio 1.0; 95% confidence interval 0.9-1.1) or death from any specific underlying cause including infectious diseases, cancer, or cardiac and cerebrovascular diseases. TL, however, was positively associated with more YHL (beta = 0.08 +/- 0.04, p = .03). Findings suggest that TL may not be a strong biomarker of survival in older individuals, but it may be an informative biomarker of healthy aging.