There is a growing elderly population presenting with, and surviving, oral cancer. Making decisions about treatment is complex, and is influenced in part by prognosis and expected outcomes for health-related quality of life (HRQoL). We used the University of Washington Head and Neck Quality of Life scale (UWQoL) to compare HRQoL in patients by age group at a time closest to one year after primary surgery. Survival was analysed using data from the Office for National Statistics. A consecutive series of 1091 patients treated curatively for oral squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) at the regional maxillofacial unit at Aintree University Hospital between 1992 and 2009 were included in the main analysis. UWQoL data for 638 patients were available from about one year after treatment. Older patients (65 years or over) reported better physical and emotional function notably in regard to appearance, speech, saliva (75 years and over), pain, shoulder, mood, and anxiety than younger patients with head and neck cancer treated by operation. In conclusion, older patients seem to cope and adjust well to treatment and this is reflected in their HRQoL scores, which are higher in many domains than those of younger patients with head and neck cancer.