Objectives As populations age it is important to minimize the time people live in a less than successful state of ageing. Our aim was to identify predictors of successful ageing. Study design At baseline (1990-1994), demographic, anthropometric, health, social connectedness and behavioural data were collected for 41,514 men and women participating in the Melbourne Collaborative Cohort Study. Only those born in Australia, New Zealand and UK were included in this analysis. At follow-up in 2003-2007 data on health conditions, physical disability and psychological stress were collected and used to define successful ageing. A total of 5512 eligible participants with full data who were aged 70 and over, were included in this longitudinal analysis. Outcome measures Successful ageing at follow-up was defined as aged 70 years or over and absence of diabetes, heart attack, coronary artery bypass graft surgery, angioplasty, stroke, cancer; impairment, perceived major difficulty with physical functioning; and low risk of psychological distress. Results A body mass index in the healthy range, low waist/hip ratio, not smoking, being physically active, and not having arthritis, asthma, hypertension, or gallstones were associated prospectively with successful ageing. There was no evidence for an association of social connectedness with successful ageing. Conclusions A healthy lifestyle and maintenance of healthy weight, but not social connectedness, may improve the chances of ageing successfully by our definition. Social connectedness may be related to a perception of ageing well, but it does not appear to help avoid the usual conditions associated with ageing. © 2013 Elsevier Ireland Ltd.