Cellular aging is characterized by disruption of the nuclear lamina and its associated heterochromatin. How these structural changes within the nucleus contribute to age-related degeneration of the organism is unclear. Genes lacking CpG islands (CGI− genes) generally associate with heterochromatin when they are inactive. Here, we show that the expression of these genes is globally activated in aged cells and tissues. This CGI− gene misexpression is a common feature of normal and pathological aging in mice and humans. We report evidence that CGI− gene up-regulation is directly responsible for age-related physiological deterioration, notably for increased secretion of inflammatory mediators.