The present study investigated the outcomes of targeted therapy for elderly patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma (mRCC). A total of 277 patients with mRCC who were treated with tyrosine kinase inhibitor as a first-line therapy from January 2008 to May 2018 were retrospectively investigated by reviewing clinicopathological data. Patients 75 years or older were classified into the older-aged group (n=55) while all others were classified into the younger-aged group (n=222). The preoperative clinicopathological characteristics and the overall survival (OS) rate for these two groups were subsequently compared. The median age in the older- and younger-aged groups was 78 and 63 years (P<0.0001), respectively. A total of 7, 42 and 6 cases in the older-aged group and 46, 118 and 58 cases in the younger-aged group were classified into favorable, intermediate, and poor risk groups, respectively. The rate of patients with cardiovascular diseases (29.1%) and malignant diseases other than RCC (20.0%) was significantly higher in the older-aged group compared with the younger-aged group (6.8%; P<0.0001 and 7.2%; P=0.0042, respectively). There was a significant improvement in the OS rate for patients beginning targeted therapy after 2011 compared with those starting therapy prior to 2010. The 50% OS rate in patients starting targeted therapy before 2010 and after 2011 was, respectively, 17.1 and 38.6 months for the older-aged group (P=0.0066), while there was no significant difference for the younger-aged group (P=0.1441; 50% OS; 35.9 vs. 30.5 months). The results of the present study indicated that the prognosis for older patients has improved since the introduction of targeted therapy.Copyright © 2020, Spandidos Publications.