Published: May 2020
Author(s): Jesse Heley, Sophie Yarker, Laura Jones

The figure of the older volunteer involved with the civil society of rural communities is written onto by the dual demands to age well and productively; to benefit themselves but also to be a good citizen and to contribute to their communities and to wider society. Considering this popular narrative in depth, this paper brings two bodies of literature into useful dialogue. First, we consider the re-emerging interest in the geographies of ageing and, in particular, the role of place and environment in shaping the process of how we experience growing older and the later stage of our lives. Second, we consider that expanding body of work which focuses on the geographies of volunteering, and particularly those studies which account for the shifting landscape of volunteering and the increasing role of voluntary organisations in rural communities. Our entry point into both of these sets of literature is through the emotional and affective experience of both volunteering and rural ageing. The paper draws on case study data gathered in rural Wales to demonstrate how individuals actively strive to maintain their sense of self-identity and continuity of place through the voluntary work they are engaged in. In doing so, the paper makes the argument that ageing in rural places can be understood as a type of stewardship of place wherein the need to preserve continuity of the self in later life becomes intertwined with a desire to support the continuity of place(s).