The effector cells of the blood have limited lifetimes and must be replenished continuously throughout life from a small reserve of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) in the bone marrow. Although serial bone marrow transplantation experiments in mice suggest that the replicative potential of HSCs is finite, there is little evidence that replicative senescence causes depletion of the stem cell pool during the normal lifespan of either mouse or man. Studies conducted in murine genetic models defective in DNA repair, intracellular ROS management, and telomere maintenance indicate that all these pathways are critical to the longevity and stress response of the stem cell pool. With age, HSCs show an increased propensity to differentiate towards myeloid rather than lymphoid lineages, which may contribute to the decline in lymphopoiesis that attends aging. Challenges for the future include assessing the significance of 'lineage skewing' to immune dysfunction, and investigating the role of epigenetic dysregulation in HSC aging.