The syndrome of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) consists of chronic bronchitis (CB), bronchiectasis, emphysema, and reversible airway disease that combine uniquely in an individual patient. Older patients are at risk for COPD and its components—emphysema, CB, and bronchiectasis. Bacterial and viral infections play a role in acute exacerbations of COPD (AECOPD) and in acute exacerbations of CB (AECB) without features of COPD. Older patients are at risk for resistant bacterial organisms during their episodes of AECOPD and AECB. Organisms include the more‐common bacteria implicated in AECOPD/AECB such as Haemophilus influenzae, Moraxella catarrhalis, and Streptococcus pneumoniae. Less‐common nonenteric, gram‐negative organisms including Pseudomonas aeruginosa, gram‐positive organisms including Staphylococcus aureus, and strains of nontuberculosis Mycobacteria are more often seen in AECOPD/AECB episodes involving elderly patients with frequent episodes of CB or those with bronchiectasis. Risk‐stratified antibiotic treatment guidelines appear useful for purulent episodes of AECOPD and episodes of AECB. These guidelines have not been prospectively validated for the general population and especially not for the elderly population. Using a risk‐stratification approach for elderly patients, first‐line antibiotics (e.g., amoxicillin, ampicillin, pivampicillin, trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole, and doxycycline), with a more‐limited spectrum of antibacterial coverage, are used in patients who are likely to have a low probability of resistant organisms during AECOPD/AECB. Second‐line antibiotics (e.g., amoxicillin/clavulanic acid, second‐ or third‐generation cephalosporins, and respiratory fluoroquinolones) with a broader spectrum of coverage are reserved for patients with significant risk factors for resistant organisms and those who have failed initial antibiotic treatment.