Although physical activity is an effective way to cope with ageing-related impairments, few older people are motivated to turn their sedentary lifestyle into an active one. Recent evidence suggests that walking can be more effectively promoted in older adults with positive messages about the benefits of walking than with negative messages about the risks of inactivity. This study examined motivation and memory as the supposed mechanisms underlying the greater effectiveness of positively framed compared to negatively framed messages for promoting activity. Older adults (N = 53, age 60–87 years) were introduced to six physical activity programmes that were randomly paired with either positively framed or negatively framed messages. Participants indicated how motivated they were to participate in each programme by providing ratings on attractiveness, suitability, capability and intention. They also completed surprise free recall and recognition tests. Respondents felt more motivated to participate in physical activity programmes paired with positively framed messages than in those with negatively framed ones. They also had better recognition memory for positively framed than negatively framed messages, and misremembered negatively framed messages to be positively framed. Findings support the notion that socioemotional selectivity theory—a theory of age-related changes in motivation—is a useful basis for health intervention design.