PURPOSE: Fecal incontinence is a major concern, and its incidence increases with age. Quality of life may decrease due to fecal incontinence after both sphincter-saving surgery and a rectal resection with a permanent stoma. This study investigated quality of life, with regard to fecal incontinency, in elderly patients after rectal-cancer surgery. METHODS: All patients who underwent elective rectal surgery with anastomosis for rectal cancer between December 2008 and June 2012 at two Dutch hospitals were eligible for inclusion. The Wexner and the fecal incontinence quality of life (FIQoL) scores were collected. Young (<70 years of age) and elderly (> or =70 years of age) patients were compared. RESULTS: Seventy-nine patients were included, of whom 19 were elderly patients (24.1%). All diverting stomas that had been placed (n = 60, 75.9%) had been closed at the time of the study. There were no differences in Wexner or FIQoL scores between the young and the elderly patients. Also, there were no differences between patients without a diverting stoma and patients in whom bowel continuity had been restored. Elderly females had significantly worse scores on the FIQoL subscales of coping/behavior (P = 0.043) and depression/self-perception (P = 0.004) than young females. Elderly females scored worse on coping/behavior (P = 0.010) and depression/self-perception (P = 0.036) than elderly males. Young and elderly males had comparable scores. CONCLUSION: Quality of life with regard to fecal incontinency is worse in elderly females after sphincter-preserving surgery for rectal cancer. Patients should be informed of this impact, and a definite stoma may be considered in this patient group.