Basic cognitive functions, such as the abilities to activate, represent, maintain, focus and process information, decline with age. A paradigm shift towards cross-level conceptions is needed in order to obtain an integrative understanding of cognitive aging phenomena that cuts across neural, information-processing, and behavioral levels. We review empirical data at these different levels, and computational theories proposed to enable their integration. A theoretical link is highlighted, relating deficient neuromodulation with noisy information processing, which might result in less distinctive cortical representations. These less distinctive representations might be implicated in working memory and attentional functions that underlie the behavioral manifestations of cognitive aging deficits.