Recent new data on old age mortality point to a particular model for the way in which the probability of dying increases with age. The model is found to fit not only modern data but also some widely spaced historical data for the 19th and 17th centuries, and even some estimates for the early mediaeval period. The results show a pattern which calls for explanation. The model can also be used to predict a probability distribution for the highest age which will be attained in given circumstances. The results are relevant to the current debate about whether there is a fixed upper limit to the length of human life.