Recent work has illuminated differences in carotid artery blood flow rate dynamics of older versus young adults. To what degree flow waveform shape, and indeed the use of measured versus assumed flow rates, affects the simulated hemodynamics of older adult carotid bifurcations has not been elucidated. Image-based computational fluid dynamics models of normal, older adult carotid bifurcations were reconstructed from magnetic resonance angiography. Subject-specific hemodynamics were computed by imposing each individual’s inlet and outlet flow rates measured by cine phase-contrast magnetic resonance imaging or by imposing characteristic young and older adult flow waveform shapes adjusted to cycle-averaged flow rates measured or allometrically scaled to the inlet and outlet areas. Despite appreciable differences in the measured versus assumed flow conditions, the locations and extents of low wall shear stress and elevated relative residence time were broadly consistent; however, the extent of elevated oscillatory shear index was substantially underestimated, more by the use of assumed cycle-averaged flow rates than the assumed flow waveform shape. For studies of individual vessels, use of a characteristic flow waveform shape is likely sufficient, with some benefit offered by scaling to measured cycle-averaged flow rates. For larger-scale studies of many vessels, ranking of cases according to presumed hemodynamic or geometric risk is robust to the assumed flow conditions.