Ageing is associated with important anatomical, physiological and psychosocial changes that may have an impact on the management of obstructive airway diseases (asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)) and on their optimal therapy. Ageing-related modifications might be responsible for a different effectiveness of bronchodilators in the elderly patients as compared to younger subjects. Furthermore, the physiological involution of organs and the frequent comorbidity, often interfere with pharmacokinetics of bronchodilator drugs used in asthma and COPD. This review will focus on the use of bronchodilators in the elderly, with particular attention to the achievable goals and to rationale, utility and pitfalls in using the inhalation therapy in this age group. beta(2)-agonists, anticholinergics and methylxanthines will be discussed and their side effects in the elderly will be considered.