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Potential and impediments to senior citizens' volunteering to maintain basic services in shrinking regions

Against the background of demographic change and municipal austerity, policy-makers are evoking the crucial role that younger retirees could play in supplementing the provision of basic services through volunteering. This article ties into this discussion, critically questioning the potential of (younger) senior citizens’ volunteering as a way of maintaining basic services in shrinking regions. Qualitative interviews from two regional case studies in rural Germany provide insights into the motivations, forms and contexts of such volunteering. The empirical results show that the potential for basi service provision is limited. Key players engaged in multiple activities and more-passive types of contact-seekers have little interest in taking on further tasks. Traditional basi services do not fit in with the interests of potential volunteers, and time budgets are constrained by alternative activities and commitments. Furthermore, volunteering is hampered by very basic structural conditions of peripheral rural life. Overall, our results reflect the heterogeneity and diversity of (older) rural milieus and lifestyles, and challenge persistent scientific perceptions of rural and, especially, village populations as place-based closely knit communities.

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