Long-lived cells such as terminally differentiated postmitotic neurons and glia must cope with the accumulation of damage over the course of an animal's lifespan. How long-lived cells deal with ageing-related damage is poorly understood. Here we show that polyploid cells accumulate in the adult fly brain and that polyploidy protects against DNA damage-induced cell death. Multiple types of neurons and glia that are diploid at eclosion, become polyploid in the adult Drosophila brain. The optic lobes exhibit the highest levels of polyploidy, associated with an elevated DNA damage response in this brain region. Inducing oxidative stress or exogenous DNA damage leads to an earlier onset of polyploidy, and polyploid cells in the adult brain are more resistant to DNA damage-induced cell death than diploid cells. Our results suggest polyploidy may serve a protective role for neurons and glia in adult Drosophila melanogaster brains.