Organisms are constantly challenged by stresses and privations and require adaptive responses for their survival. The forkhead box O (FOXO) transcription factor DAF-16 (hereafter referred to as DAF-16/FOXO) is a central nexus in these responses, but despite its importance little is known about how it regulates its target genes. Proteomic identification of DAF-16/FOXO-binding partners in Caenorhabditis elegans and their subsequent functional evaluation by RNA interference revealed several candidate DAF-16/FOXO cofactors, most notably the chromatin remodeller SWI/SNF. DAF-16/FOXO and SWI/SNF form a complex and globally co-localize at DAF-16/FOXO target promoters. We show that specifically for gene activation, DAF-16/FOXO depends on SWI/SNF, facilitating SWI/SNF recruitment to target promoters, to activate transcription by presumed remodelling of local chromatin. For the animal, this translates into an essential role for SWI/SNF in DAF-16/FOXO-mediated processes, in particular dauer formation, stress resistance and the promotion of longevity. Thus, we give insight into the mechanisms of DAF-16/FOXO-mediated transcriptional regulation and establish a critical link between ATP-dependent chromatin remodelling and lifespan regulation.