As guardian of the genome the tumor suppressor p53 controls a crucial point in protection from cellular damage and response to stressors. Activation of p53 can have beneficial (DNA repair) or detrimental (apoptosis) consequences for individual cells. In either case activation of p53 is thought to safeguard the organism at large from the deleterious effects of various stresses. Recent data suggest that the function of p53 might also play a role in the regulation of organismal lifespan. Increased p53 activity leads to lifespan shortening in mice, while apparent reduction of p53 activity in flies leads to lifespan extension. Although the mechanism by which p53 regulates lifespan remains to be determined, these findings highlight the possibility that careful manipulation of p53 activity during adult life may result in beneficial effects on healthy lifespan.