Ageing research has been revolutionized by the use of model organisms to discover genetic alterations that can extend lifespan. In the last 5 years alone, it has become apparent that single gene mutations in the insulin and insulin-like growth-factor signalling pathways can lengthen lifespan in worms, flies and mice, implying evolutionary conservation of mechanisms. Importantly, this research has also shown that these mutations can keep the animals healthy and disease-free for longer and can alleviate specific ageing-related pathologies. These findings are striking in view of the negative effects that disruption of these signalling pathways can also produce. Here, we summarize the body of work that has lead to these discoveries and point out areas of interest for future work in characterizing the genetic, molecular and biochemical details of the mechanisms to achieving a longer and healthier life.