Aging tissues experience a progressive decline in homeostatic and regenerative capacities, which has been attributed to degenerative changes in tissue-specific stem cells, stem cell niches and systemic cues that regulate stem cell activity. Understanding the molecular pathways involved in this age-dependent deterioration of stem cell function will be critical for developing new therapies for diseases of aging that target the specific causes of age-related functional decline. Here we explore key molecular pathways that are commonly perturbed as tissues and stem cells age and degenerate. We further consider experimental evidence both supporting and refuting the notion that modulation of these pathways per se can reverse aging phenotypes. Finally, we ask whether stem cell aging establishes an epigenetic 'memory' that is indelibly written or one that can be reset.