Participation and civic engagement in Scotland: the importance of contributions from older adults

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Over a quarter of all adults in Scotland give freely of their time as volunteers and support a diverse range of organisations, activities, services and facilities. Analysis of Scottish Household Survey data elucidates patterns of volunteering among older people in Scotland and the nature of formal and informal volunteering in different rural communities is illustrated by revisiting data from completed research projects undertaken in rural Scotland. Findings highlight geographical differences in volunteering, with rates consistently higher in rural than urban Scotland. Older people, ‘young old’ adults in particular, are identified as a key reservoir of rural volunteers, supporting civic, recreational, cultural and heritage organisations embedded in rural communities. They also help to run services that meet the needs of diverse groups and people of all ages within the community. The decline in volunteering observed over the past decade coupled with changes associated with neoliberal and localism agendas represent a potential threat to the sustainability of many rural areas, especially those already struggling to delivery key services. Findings point to a need for a better understanding of how older volunteers support civil society in rural communities and what measures could help support rural civic action in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInstitutions and Organizations as Learning Environments for Participation and Democracy? Opportunities, Challenges, Obstacles
EditorsReingard Spannring, Wilfried Smidt, Christine Unterrainer
Place of PublicationCham
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-031-17949-5
ISBN (Print)978-3-031-17948-8
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2023


  • Volunteering
  • Rural
  • Older Adults
  • Scotland


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