Enhanced processing following a warning cue is thought to be mediated by a phasic alerting response involving the locus coeruleus-noradrenergic (LC-NA) system. We examined the effect of aging on phasic alerting using pupil dilation as a marker of LC-NA activity in conjunction with a novel assessment of task-evoked pupil dilation. While both young and older adults displayed behavioral and pupillary alerting effects, reflected in decreased RT and increased pupillary response under high (tone) versus low (no tone) alerting conditions, older adults displayed a weaker pupillary response that benefited more from the alerting tone. The strong association between dilation and speed displayed by older adults in both alerting conditions was reduced in young adults in the high alerting condition, suggesting that in young (but not older) adults the tone conferred relatively little behavioral benefit beyond that provided by the alerting effect elicited by the target. These findings suggest a functioning but deficient LC-NA alerting system in older adults, and help reconcile previous results concerning the effects of aging on phasic alerting. Copyright © 2020 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.