Ageing International

, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 44–61 | Cite as

Implications of the Shifting Landscape of Residential Care for Volunteers’ Lived Experiences and Role Involvement

  • Laura M. FunkEmail author
  • Kerstin Stieber Roger


Volunteer contributions in residential care are viewed as an important way to meet older adults’ psychosocial needs in the context of strained resources and increasingly complex resident populations. The implications of this context for volunteering experiences are rarely considered. This paper presents findings from interviews with 18 volunteers and 9 facility representatives in one Canadian city. Volunteers believed they made a difference through filling care and human resource gaps, helping both residents and paid employees. Organizational regulations at times limited their abilities to help residents, connect with residents relationally, and their integration within care teams. Organizational expectations could also pose a challenge for volunteers’ autonomy, and some actively resisted a formal role. Interactions with residents with advanced dementia challenged volunteers’ perceptions of effectiveness, appreciation, and emotional connection. Implications are discussed in relation to the needs of paid employees and care recipients, as well as training, regulating, managing, and retaining residential care volunteers.


Formalization Nursing homes Role interpretations Volunteer experiences 



We gratefully acknowledge the contributions of Ms. Mariah Baldwin, for interviewing and transcription assistance, and Ms. Nicole Leeson, for transcription assistance. We also appreciate the contributions of all study participants. This study was funded by a Fellowship Award from the Centre on Aging at the University of Manitoba.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Laura Funk declares that she has no conflict of interest. Kerstin Roger declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Ethical Treatment of Experimental Subjects (Animal and Human)

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


This study was funded by a fellowship for Dr. Funk from the Centre on Aging, University of Manitoba (no grant number applicable).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of ManitobaWinnipegCanada
  2. 2.Community Health SciencesUniversity of ManitobaWinnipegCanada

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