The budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae has a limited life span, defined by the number of times an individual cell divides. Longevity in this organism involves a genetic component. Several morphological and physiological changes are associated with yeast aging and senescence. One of these, an increase in generation time with age, provides a 'biomarker' for the aging process. This increase in generation time has revealed the operation of a 'senescence factor(s)', which is likely to be a product of age-specific gene expression. The Cell Spiral Model indicates coordination of successive cell cycles to be inherent in the determination of life span. It is proposed that life expectancy depends on the function of a stochastic trigger during aging that sets in motion a programme leading to cell senescence and death.