No previous studies have examined Mycobacterium avium complex pulmonary disease (MAC-PD) in only elderly patients ⩾75 years old. Here, we investigated the exacerbating factors of MAC-PD in elderly patients and clarified cases that can be followed up without MAC medication. From April 2011 to March 2019, 126 advanced aged patients at our institute were newly diagnosed with MAC-PD, and could be observed based on radiological findings for over a year. Their medical records were retrospectively examined for clinical and radiological findings at the time of diagnosis and 1 year later. To identify the predictors of exacerbation, clinical characteristics of 109 treatment-naïve patients were compared between exacerbated and unchanged groups. Additionally, the unchanged group was followed for one more year. In the current study, positive acid-fast bacilli smears from the sputum test, the presence of cavitary lesions and extensive radiological findings, particularly abnormal shadows in ⩾3 lobes, were predictive of exacerbation among treatment-naïve elderly MAC-PD patients. In the unchanged group, <10% showed exacerbation of radiological findings within the subsequent year. In conclusion, if the sputum smear is negative, no cavitary lesions are present, and abnormal shadows are restricted to ⩽2 lobes, elderly patients with MAC-PD may remain untreated for a few years.