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Mapping Civic Engagement in Later Life: A Scoping Review of Gerontological Definitions and Typology Proposal


Research on older people’s civic engagement has increased significantly in the last two decades, as have policy and practice initiatives aimed at promoting civic engagement among older adults. However, the growing interest of researchers and policy-makers in older people’s civic engagement has not been mirrored by a parallel effort to define what civic engagement means in later life. To contribute to ongoing debates regarding the definition of civic engagement, this paper aims to examine the extent to which the concept has been defined in the ageing literature (RQ1), the ways in which it has been defined (RQ2), and the activities that have typically been associated with the concept (RQ3). We conducted a scoping review and content analysis of gerontological definitions of the concept of civic engagement and related concepts, such as volunteering and political participation. Our study reveals the diversity of ways in which older people are engaged, with some forms of activity, such as volunteering, more commonly featuring than others, such as informally helping others. A typology of civic activities among older people arose from the analysis of definitions, which permits their hierarchical differentiation and ordering, and thus contributes to a more nuanced and complex understanding of what we mean by being civically engaged in later life.

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We want to thank Jordi Tremosa Armengol, librarian at the University of Barcelona (Mundet Campus), who provided invaluable help with the literature review.


This work was supported by: the Spanish Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness (PSI2016-77864-R to R.S. and F.V.) and the European Cooperation in Science and Technology program (COST Action CA15122, Grant to carry out a short-term scientific mission at Newcastle University to R.S.). R.S. is a Serra Húnter Tenure-Track Lecturer at the University of Barcelona.

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Correspondence to Rodrigo Serrat.

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Serrat, R., Scharf, T. & Villar, F. Mapping Civic Engagement in Later Life: A Scoping Review of Gerontological Definitions and Typology Proposal. Voluntas 33, 615–626 (2022).

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  • Civic engagement
  • Civic participation
  • Volunteering
  • Political participation
  • Community participation
  • Ageing
  • Scoping review