The low percentages of naïve T cells commonly observed in elderly people are thought to be causally associated with mortality, primarily from infectious disease, and are taken as a hallmark of "immunosenescence". Whether low levels of naive cells actually do associate with mortality has, however, not been tested in longitudinal studies. Here, we present correlations between peripheral T-cell phenotypes and 8-year survival in individuals from the population-based prospective Leiden 85-plus Study. Counter-intuitively, we found that a lower frequency of naïve CD8+ T cells (characterized as CD45RA+CCR7+CD27+CD28+) at baseline (>88 years) correlated with significantly better survival, while there was a tendency for the reciprocal accumulation of late-differentiated effector memory cells (CD45RA-CCR7-CD27-CD28-) also to associate with better survival. These findings suggest that better retention of memory cells specific for previously encountered antigens may provide a survival advantage in this particular population. Given the prevalence of Cytomegalovirus (CMV) and its reported association with immunosenescence, we tested whether memory for this potential pathogen was relevant to survival. We found that individuals mounting an exclusively pro-inflammatory ex vivo response (TNF, IFN-γ, IL-17) to the major CMV target molecules pp65 and IE1 had a significant survival advantage over those also having anti-inflammatory responses (IL-10). These findings suggest that higher levels of naïve T cells may not necessarily be associated with a survival advantage and imply that the nature of immunosurveillance against CMV may be crucial for remaining longevity, at least in the very elderly.