In this review we discuss the yeast as a paradigm for the study of aging. The budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which can proliferate in both haploid and diploid states, has been used extensively in aging research. The budding yeast divides asymmetrically to form a 'mother' cell and a bud. Two major approaches, 'budding life span' and 'stationary phase' have been used to determine 'senescence' and 'life span' in yeast. Discrepancies observed in metabolic behavior and longevity between cells studied by these two systems raise questions of how 'life span' in yeast is defined and measured. Added to this variability in experimental approach and results is the variety of yeast strains with different genetic make up used as 'wild type' and experimental organisms. Another problematic genetic point in the published studies on yeast is the use of both diploid and haploid strains. We discuss the inherent, advantageous attributes that make the yeast an attractive choice for modern biological research as well as certain pitfalls in the choice of this model for the study of aging. The significance of the purported roles of the Sir2 gene, histone deacetylases, gene silencing, rDNA circles and stress genes in determination of yeast 'life span' and aging is evaluated. The relationship between cultivation conditions and longevity are assessed. Discrepancies between the yeast and mammalian systems with regard to aging are pointed out. We discuss unresolved problems concerning the suitability of the budding yeast for the study of basic aging phenomena.