Neurons completely transform how they regulate cell death over the course of their lifetimes. Developing neurons freely activate cell death pathways to fine-tune the number of neurons that are needed during the precise formation of neural networks. However, the regulatory balance between life and death shifts as neurons mature beyond early development. Mature neurons promote survival at all costs by employing multiple, often redundant, strategies to prevent cell death by apoptosis. This dramatic shift from permitting cell death to ensuring cellular survival is critical, as these post-mitotic cells must provide neuronal circuitry for an organism's entire lifetime. Importantly, as many neurodegenerative diseases afflict adult neuronal populations, the survival mechanisms in mature neurons are likely to be either reversed or circumvented during neurodegeneration. Examining the adaptations for inhibiting apoptosis during neuronal maturation is key to comprehending not just how neurons survive long term, but may also provide insight for understanding how neuronal toxicity in various neurodegenerative diseases may ultimately lead to cell death.