As a result of insufficient digestion of oxidatively damaged macromolecules and organelles by autophagy and other degradative systems, long-lived postmitotic cells, such as cardiac myocytes, neurons and retinal pigment epithelial cells, progressively accumulate biological ‘garbage’ (‘waste’ materials). The latter include lipofuscin (a non-degradable intralysosomal polymeric substance), defective mitochondria and other organelles, and aberrant proteins, often forming aggregates (aggresomes). An interaction between senescent lipofuscin-loaded lysosomes and mitochondria seems to play a pivotal role in the progress of cellular ageing. Lipofuscin deposition hampers autophagic mitochondrial turnover, promoting the accumulation of senescent mitochondria, which are deficient in ATP production but produce increased amounts of reactive oxygen species. Increased oxidative stress, in turn, further enhances damage to both mitochondria and lysosomes, thus diminishing adaptability, triggering mitochondrial and lysosomal pro-apoptotic pathways, and culminating in cell death. Copyright © 2007 Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.