Sport as social policy has reached a peculiar and somewhat paradoxical crossroads. Historically, sport has generally been seen as healthy for young people but ill-advised for older people. However, in the context of the twenty-first century’s ‘obesity epidemic’, the rising ‘risk’ of lifestyle diseases and ageing populations, some scholars suggest that competitive and vigorous sports may not be the right kind of physical activity for young people because, they argue, it is not something they will be able to keep doing in later life. As a result, they argue that young people should be introduced to moderate intensity ‘lifestyle’ activities like walking and going to the gym which will hopefully improve their health and protect them from weight gain and ill-health as they age. At the same time, enthusiasm for sport participation as a policy setting to help older people maintain their independence and improve their general quality of life is growing. Sport participation also appears to be on the rise among older people and, as our research suggests, is becoming understood as a more ‘normal’ part of the ageing process in Western countries. In this article, we offer examples of these rhetorical shifts and argue that, as ever, sport emerges as an endlessly flexible discursive policy resource.