Mitogen-induced increases in free calcium ion concentration ([Ca]i) are a key element of the process by which T lymphocytes are induced to proliferate and differentiate into effector cells. T cells from old mice exhibit lower average rises in calcium concentration than T cells from young donors when stimulated with either mitogenic lectins or antibodies to the CD3 chains of the antigen receptor. The decline with age in calcium signal generation is largely attributable to a shift from naïve to memory T cells, in that memory T cells, from mice of any age, are more resistant to mitogen-induced changes in [Ca]i. The decline in calcium signal generation is likely to be functionally significant, since T cells isolated on the basis of poor calcium signals show diminished ability to produce and to respond to the growth factor IL-2. Con A induces a transient increase in uptake of radiolabeled calcium from extracellular sources, and the extent of this increase declines with age. Alterations in production of inositol tris-phosphate (IP3) seem not to contribute to age-related changes in calcium signal generation. T cells from old mice, and memory T cells from mice of any age, are relatively resistant to increases in [Ca]i even when these are induced by receptor-independent stimuli such as the calcium ionophore ionomycin. The ionomycin-resistance of memory T cells suggests that these cells may have an augmented ability to buffer changes in [Ca]i, perhaps by increased activity of the ATP-dependent plasma membrane calcium pump. It seems likely that age-related declines in calcium signal generation contribute to the functional immunodeficiency of old age.