Ageing, or increased mortality with time, coupled with physiologic decline, is a nearly universal yet poorly understood biological phenomenon. Studies in model organisms suggest that two conserved pathways modulate longevity: DNA damage repair and Insulin/Igf1-like signalling. In addition, homologs of yeast Sir2 – the sirtuins – regulate lifespan in diverse organisms. Here, we focus on one particular sirtuin, SIRT6. Mice lacking SIRT6 develop a degenerative disorder that in some respects mimics models of accelerated ageing [Cell (2006) 124:315]. We discuss how sirtuins in general and SIRT6 specifically relate to other evolutionarily conserved pathways affecting ageing, and how SIRT6 might function to ensure organismal homeostasis and normal lifespan.