Human beings have been recently reviewed as 'metaorganisms' as a result of a close symbiotic relationship with the intestinal microbiota. This assumption imposes a more holistic view of the ageing process where dynamics of the interaction between environment, intestinal microbiota and host must be taken into consideration. Age-related physiological changes in the gastrointestinal tract, as well as modification in lifestyle, nutritional behaviour, and functionality of the host immune system, inevitably affect the gut microbial ecosystem. Here we review the current knowledge of the changes occurring in the gut microbiota of old people, especially in the light of the most recent applications of the modern molecular characterisation techniques. The hypothetical involvement of the age-related gut microbiota unbalances in the inflamm-aging, and immunosenescence processes will also be discussed. Increasing evidence of the importance of the gut microbiota homeostasis for the host health has led to the consideration of medical/nutritional applications of this knowledge through the development of probiotic and prebiotic preparations specific for the aged population. The results of the few intervention trials reporting the use of pro/prebiotics in clinical conditions typical of the elderly will be critically reviewed.