Centenarians represent an extreme of life expectancy. They achieve their exceptional longevity in part by lacking genetic variations linked to premature death. Pedigree studies have shown a substantial familial component in the ability to survive to extreme old age, and a recent study demonstrated a locus on chromosome 4 linked to exceptional longevity, indicating the likely existence of at least one longevity-enabling gene in humans. The children of centenarians have markedly reduced relative risks for age-related diseases, particularly heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes, and are a promising model for genetic and phenotypic studies of 1) aging slowly relative to the general population and 2) the delay of and perhaps escape from important age-related diseases. These studies and those of other mammals and lower organisms show great promise for the delineation of important environmental and genetic determinants of aging well.