The distinction between senescent and non-senescent mortality proves to be very valuable for describing and analysing age patterns of death rates. Unfortunately, standard methods for estimating these mortality components are lacking. The first part of this paper discusses alternative methods for estimating background and senescent mortality among adults and proposes a simple approach based on death rates by causes of death. The second part examines trends in senescent life expectancy (i.e., the life expectancy implied by senescent mortality) and compares them with trends in conventional longevity indicators between 1960 and 2000 in a group of 17 developed countries with low mortality. Senescent life expectancy for females rises at an average rate of 1.54 years per decade between 1960 and 2000 in these countries. The shape of the distribution of senescent deaths by age remains relatively invariant while the entire distribution shifts over time to higher ages as longevity rises.