Ageing, austerity and engagement: implications for participation and knowledge production in rural civil society across the lifecourse


Dr Sophie Yarker, Aberystwyth University, UK

Dr Jesse Heley, Aberystwyth University, UK

Dr Laura Jones, Aberystwyth University, UK

Contact: Dr Sophie Yarker,


This working group wishes to consider the intersections between uneven processes of economic austerity and population ageing on voluntary organisation in rural communities. Reductions in public sector funding have been keenly felt in many rural areas, where a diversely ageing population faces long-standing issues of accessibility, service proximity, mobility and social isolation. However, the impacts of this context are not only felt by older members of the community but are experienced throughout the voluntary and community sector tasked with responding to these socio-political challenges. 

Responding to a call to produce more ‘enlivened’ understandings of volunteering (Smith et al. 2010) this working group wishes to draw on Mills (2014)use of a lifecourse analysis to consider the diversity of these multiple knowledges across different ages of volunteers in rural communities. It proposes to explore how the development of such knowledge’s contributes both to the individual as well as the social and economic wellbeing of the communities and organisations concerned.  Such issues are of critical concern in the ongoing context of austerity, where differentiated patterns of volunteer availability and retention, motivation and values, and responsibility and obligation are emerging. Different theoretical approaches, including of Stebbins’ typology of volunteering(Stebbins 2014) , for better understanding the changing social, political and economic climate within which rural volunteering occurs are to be considered. 


We will consider empirical and theoretical contributions that considers the above topic to a paper with discussants session and/ a Pecha Kucha session depending upon interest

A Masterclass/ expert session delivered by Professor Robert Stebbins on the application of a Serious Leisure Perspective to understanding some of the core concerns of the sessions. This would involve a presentation by Professor Stebbins to be followed by an interactive audience discussion.


Mills, S., 2014. Geographies of education, volunteering and the lifecourse: the Woodcraft Folk in Britain (1925-75). Cultural Geographies, 23(1), pp.103–119.

Smith, F.M. et al., 2010. Enlivened Geographies of Volunteering: Situated, Embodied and Emotional Practices of Voluntary Action. Scottish Geographical Journal, 126(4), pp.258–274.

Stebbins, R.A., 2014. The Serious Leisure Perspective. In Careers in Serious Leisure. pp. 3–27.