Ageing is considered in the context of the abiotic stresses to which free-living organisms are normally exposed. Assuming that the primary target of selection of stress is at the level of energy carriers, trade-offs under the rate-of-living theory of ageing predict increased longevity from selection for stress resistance. Changes in longevity then become incidental to selection for stress resistance. I therefore suggest the reformulation of the rate-of-living theory to become a stress theory of ageing. This directly incorporates the characteristics of habitats in nature. Under this theory, the primary trait inherited is resistance to stress. Consequently, at extreme ages those with inherited resistance to abiotic stress should dominate. Furthermore, the reduction in homeostasis manifested by deteriorating ability to adapt to abiotic stress as ageing proceeds, should be slowest in those surviving longest.