Aged golden hamsters accumulate senescent cells in the lungs, and the senolytic drug ABT-263, a BCL-2 inhibitor, depletes these cells at baseline and during SARS-CoV-2 infection. Relative to young hamsters, aged hamsters had a greater viral load during the acute phase of infection and displayed higher levels of sequelae during the post-acute phase. Early treatment with ABT-263 lowered pulmonary viral load in aged (but not young) animals, an effect associated with lower expression of ACE2, the receptor for SARS-CoV-2. ABT-263 treatment also led to lower pulmonary and systemic levels of senescence-associated secretory phenotype factors and to amelioration of early and late lung disease. These data demonstrate the causative role of age-associated pre-existing senescent cells on COVID-19 severity and have clear clinical relevance.