Muscle denervation is accompanied by atrophy and a decline in oxidative capacity. We investigated whether the time course of adaptations following denervation of the soleus muscle differs in adult (5 months old) and older adult (25 months old) rats. We denervated the soleus muscle of the left leg, while the right leg served as an internal control. Two weeks after denervation, muscle mass was decreased both in adult and old animals to, respectively, 57% and 54% (p < 0.001) and capillary to fibre ratio (C: F) decreased to 51% and 50% (p < 0.01) of the control values. Yet, the capillary density was increased in older adult but not in adult muscles, indicating that the regression of the capillary bed during denervation lags behind the decrease in fibre size in the soleus muscle of the older rats. One week after denervation the optical density of sections stained for succinate dehydrogenase was 83% and 79% (p < 0.05) of control adult and older adult muscles, respectively, and then remained stable. This indicates that during the first week of denervation loss of oxidative capacity occurred at a relatively higher rate than that of muscle mass. No major changes occurred between 2 and 4 weeks of denervation, except for an increase in the proportion of hybrid (I/IIa) fibres in 4 week denervated muscles (adult 10% vs. 23%; old 1% vs. 13%; p < 0.05). Except for changes in capillarisation, the time course of atrophy and decrease in oxidative capacity following denervation was similar in soleus muscles from adult and old rats.