Does context matter? Voluntary work in long-term care




Voluntary work, volunteers, nursing homes, home care, long-term care, ageing-in-place


Introduction: Increased voluntary work in long-term care (LTC) is encouraged in white papers in Norway as well as in many other western states. This is due to the growth in the number of service recipients and a subsequent economic burden for the state. Voluntary work in nursing homes and home care services take place in different spatial contexts, but little attention has been paid to how the different contexts may potentially influence the possibilities for voluntary work. The aim of this study is to obtain new knowledge of the significance of context in recruitment of volunteers in LTC.

Method: A cross-sectional study was conducted among leaders in nursing homes and home services in 50 municipalities across all regions of Norway. Descriptive analysis was used.

Results: According to the leaders, home care services had less voluntary work than nursing homes. Respondents from home care scored “poor flow of information” and “low interest in the municipality” as major hinderances, more so than respondents from nursing homes did.

Discussion: Nursing homes typically have many residents under one roof following a similar schedule. Thus, volunteer-run activities are held more easily at set times and incorporated into the daily life of the institutions. On the other hand, home dwellers in home care stay in a more individualised setting with more autonomy and can opt out of activities that nursing home residents would normally join. Skill acquisition, networking and socializing are common motivations for volunteering, and a nursing home setting may be an easier context to obtain this. The governmental endeavour for increased voluntary work in LTC can be seen as an effort to meet expected rises in public expenditure. However, the realism can be debated due to substantial challenges on the future potential of volunteerism in LTC, especially in the home care context.

Author Biographies

Laila Tingvold, Associate Professor

Senter for omsorgsforskningn, NTNU Gjøvik

Oddvar Førland, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, Centre for Care Research West




Ahgren, B. (2014). The path to integrated healthcare: various Scandinavian strategies. International Journal of Care Coordination, 17(1-2), 52-58.

Andfossen, N. B. (2016). The potential for collaborative innovation between public services and volunteers in the long-term care sector. Innovation Journal, 21(3).

Andfossen, N. B. (2020). Co-production between long-term care units and voluntary organisations in Norwegian municipalities: a theoretical discussion and empirical analysis. Primary Health Care Research & Development, 21.

Bergland, Å., & Kirkevold, M. (2006). Thriving in nursing homes in Norway: Contributing aspects described by residents. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 43(6), 681-691.

Bing-Jonsson, P. C., Hofoss, D., Kirkevold, M., Bjørk, I. T., & Foss, C. (2016). Sufficient competence in community elderly care? Results from a competence measurement of nursing staff. BMC nursing, 15(1), 5.

Broese van Groenou, M., & Boer, A. (2016). Providing informal care in a changing society. Social, Behavioural and Health Perspectives, 13(3), 271-279.

Burau, V. D., Theobald, H., & Blank, R. H. (2007). Governing home care: A cross-national comparison. Edward Elgar Publishing.

Bussell, H., & Forbes, D. (2001). Understanding the volunteer market: The what,where, who and why of volunteering. International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing, 7(3), 244-257.

Christensen, K., & Wærness, K. (2018). Long-term care services in Norway. A historical sociological perspective. In K. Christensen & D. Pilling (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Social Care Work Around the World (pp. 15-28). Adingdon: Oxon: Routledge.

Clary, G. E., & Snyder, M. (1999). The Motivations to Volunteer: Theoretical and Practical Considerations. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 8(5), 156-159.

Cour, A. l. (2019). The management quest for authentic relationships in voluntary social care. Journal of Civil Society, 15(1), 1-17.

Disch, P. G., & Vetvik, E. (2009). Framtidas omsorgsbilde: slik det ser ut på tegnebrettet : omsorgsplanlegging i norske kommuner : status i 2009 - utfordringer mot 2015 (Vol. nr. 1/2009). [Arendal]: Senter for omsorgsforskning, Sør.

Esping-Andersen, G. (1990). The three worlds of welfare capitalism. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Fensli, M., Skaar, R., & Söderhamn, U. (2012). Frivilligsentral og offentlig omsorg-samhandling til brukers beste [Volunteer centrals and public care - cooperation to the best for the service receipients]. Nordisk Sygeplejeforskning.

Folkestad, B., Christensen, D. A., Strømsnes, K., & Selle, P. (2015). Frivillig innsats i Noreg 1998-2014: Kva kjenneteikner dei frivillige og kva har endra seg? Rapport fra Senter for forskning på sivilsamfunn og frivillig sektor.

Fredriksen, E., Martinez, S., Moe, C. E., & Thygesen, E. (2020). Key challenges and best practices in the coordination of volunteers in healthcare services: A qualitative systematic review. Health & social care in the community.

Fyfe, N. R., & Milligan, C. (2003). Out of the shadows: exploring contemporary geographies of voluntarism. Progress in human geography, 27(4), 397-413.

Fjørtoft, A. K., Oksholm, T., Førland, O., Delmar, C., & Alvsvåg, H. (2020). Balancing contradictory requirements in homecare nursing-A discourse analysis. Nursing open.

Førland, O, Fagertun, A, Hansen, R & Kverndokk. (2019). Normtider til besvær. Evaluering av endringene i normtider for hjemmetjenestene i Bergen kommune. [The Inconvenience of Standard Times. Evaluation of Changes in Standard Time for Home-Care Services in Bergen Municipality]. Vol. nr 4/2017. [Bergen] Senter for omsorgsforskning, Vest.

Førland, O. (2015). Hva er frivillig innsats i omsorgssektoren? [What is volunteering in the Care Sector]. In L. H. Jensen (Ed.), Frivillighet i omsorgssektoren [Volunteering in the Care Sector] (pp. 21-23). Bergen: Aldring og Helse.

Førland, O., & Folkestad, B. (2016). Hjemmetjenestene i Norge i et befolknings- og brukerperspektiv. En populasjonsstudie basert på innbyggerundersøkelsene fra 2010, 2013 og 2015 [The Home Care Services in Norway in a population and user perspective. A study based on population surveys from 2010, 2013 and 2015]. Senter for omsorgsforskning. Rapportserie nr. 1-2016.

Førland, O., & Rostad, H. M. (2019). Variasjon og uønsket variasjon i kvalitet i omsorgstjenestene - En kunnskapsoppsummering [Variation and unwanted variation in quality in the Care Services - A summary of knowledge]. Senter for omsorgsforskning. Rapportserie nr.1-2019.

Garsjø, O. (2008). Institusjon som hjem og arbeidsplass: et arbeidstaker-og brukerperspektiv: Gyldendal akademisk.

Gautun, H., & Syse, A. (2017). Earlier hospital discharge: a challenge for Norwegian municipalities. Nordic Journal of Social Research, 8, 1-17.

Grabowski, D. C. (2006). The cost-effectiveness of long-term care services: review and synthesis of the most recent evidence. Medical Care Research and Review, 63(1), 3-28.

Greenfield, E. A., Scharlach, A. E., & Davitt, J. K. (2016). Organizational Charactistics and Volunteering in Age Friendly Supportive Service Initiatives. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 45, 931-948.

Groenou, M. v., & De Boer, A. H. (2016). Providing informal care in a changing society. European Journal of Ageing, 13, 271-279.

Gulla, C. (2018). A fine balance: drug use in Norwegian nursing homes. (Doctoral degree PhD), Bergen.

Haak, M., Malmgren Fänge, A., Iwarsson, S., & Dahlin-Ivanoff, S. (2011). The importance of successful place integration for perceived health in very old age: a qualitative meta-synthesis. International Journal of Public Health, 56, 589-595.

Habermann, U. (2007). En postmoderne helgen? Om motiver til frivillighed. København: Muesum Tusculanum.

Hager, M. A., & Brudney, J. L. (2015). In search of strategy: Universalistic, contingent, and configurational adoption of volunteer management practices. Nonprofit Management and Leadership, 25(3), 235-254.

Hamran, T., & Moe, S. (2012). Yngre og eldre brukere i hjemmetjenesten - ulike behov eller forskjellsbehandling: flerfaglig praksis i et interaksjonsteoretisk perspektiv. Gjøvik: Høgskolen i Gjøvik.

Hansen, T., & Slagsvold, B. (2020). An "Army of Volunteers"? Engagement, Motivation, and Barriers to Volunteering among the Baby Boomers. Journal of gerontological social work, 1-19.

Hauge, S. (2004). Jo mere vi er sammen, jo gladere vi blir?: Ein feltmetodisk studie av sjukeheimen som heim (Vol. no. 208).

Hellström, Y., & Hallberg, I. R. (2004). Determinants and characteristics of help provision for elderly people living at home and in relation to quality of life. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences, 18(4), 387-395.

Helvik, A.-S., Engedal, K., & Selbæk, G. (2010). The quality of life and factors associated with it in the medically hospitalised elderly. Ageing & mental health, 14(7), 861-869.

Hillestad, E., & Tessem, J. (2015). Frivillighet i eldreomsorgen - hvorfor og hvordan? In M. Sætrang Holm & S. Husebø (Eds.), En verdig alderdom. Omsorg ved livets slutt. Bergen: Fagbokforlaget.

Hoad, P. (2002). Drawing the line: the boundaries of volunteering in the community care of older people. Health & social care in the community, 10(4), 239-246.

Hussein, S., & Manthorpe, J. (2005). An International Review of the Long-Term Care Workforce. Journal of Ageing and Social Policy, 17(4), 75-94. doi:10.1300/J031v17n04_05

Ingebretsen, R. (2005). Kommunikasjon ved demens-en arena for samarbeid (8278942153). Retrieved from Oslo:

Jegermalm, M., Hermansen, J., & Fladmoe, A. (2019). Beyond Voluntray Organizations and the Welfare State: Patterns of Informal Helping in the Scandinavian Countries. Civic Engagement in Scandinavia, 95-111.

Johansen, V., & Lofthus, A. (2011). Kommunenes rekruttering til og oppfølging av frivillig omsorg [Municipalities recruitment and follow up of volunteer carers]. ØF-notat nr.: 11/2011. Retrieved from

Kautto, M. (2010). The Nordic Countries. In F. G. Castles (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Welfare State. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kjøs, B. Ø., Botten, G., Gjevjon, E. R., & Romøren, T. I. (2010). Quality work in long-term care: the role of first-line leaders. International Journal for Quality in Health Care, 22(5), 351-357.

Lorentzen, H., Brekke, J.-P., & Andersen, R. K. (1995). Felleskapets fundament: sivilsamfunnet og idealismen. Oslo: Pax.

Luijkx, K. G., & Schols, J. M. G. A. (2018). Volunteers in Palliative Care Make A Difference. Journal of Palliative Care, 25(1), 30-39.

Malmedal, W., Ingebrigtsen, O., & Saveman, B.-I. (2009). Inadequate care in Norwegian nursing homes - as reported by nursing staff. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences, 23(2), 231-242.

Ministry of Finance. (2017). Long-term Perspectives on the Norwegian Economy 2017. Oslo: Ministry of Finance Retrieved from

Ministry of Health and Care Services (2006). Mestring, muligheter og mening: Framtidas omsorgsutfordringer ( 25 (2005-2006)). [Future care challenges].Oslo:Regjeringen.

Ministry of Health and Care Services (2015). Nasjonal strategi for frivillig arbeid på helse- og omsorgsfeltet (2015-2020) [National strategy for voluntary work in the health and care sector]. Oslo: Regjeringen.

Ministry of Health and Care Services (2013). Morgendagens omsorg (Meld. St. 29 (2012-2013)) [Future Care]. Oslo: Regjeringen.

Ministry of Health and Care Services (2017). Leve hele livet. En kvalitetsreform for eldre.[A full life - all your life. A quality Reform for Older Persons]. Oslo: Regjeringen.

Ministry of Health and Care Services (2013). Fremtidens primærhelsetjeneste - nærhet og helhet. [The primary health and care services of tomorrow - localised and integrated]. White Paper no. 26 (2014-2015). Oslo: Regjeringen.

Netting, F. E., Nelson Jr, H. W., Borders, K., & Huber, R. (2004). Volunteer and paid staff relationships: Implications for social work administration. Administration in Social Work, 28(3-4), 69-89.

Næss, A., Havig, A. K., & Vabø, M. (2013). Contested spaces-The perpetual quest for change in Norwegian nursing homes. In A. Hujala, S. Rissanen, & S. Vihma (Eds.), Designing wellbeing in elderly care homes (Vol. 2, pp. 68-83). Helsinki: Aalto University publication series Crossover.

Otnes, B. (2015). Utviklingen i pleie- og omsorgstjenestene 1994-2013. Tidsskrift for omsorgsforskning, 1, 48-61.

Repstad, Pål (1991). Institusjonssosiologi. Tano A.S, Otta

Romsaas, A. (2011). Frivillighet - aktiv omsorg. Kartleggingsprosjekt fra Fylkesmannen i Oslo og Akershus Oslo: Oslo kommune. Bydel Bjerke. Utviklingssenter for hjemmetjenester.

Rønning, R. (2011). Frivillige og lønnende på samme lag. Om styrking av den frivillige innsatsen i omsorgsarbeidet i samspill med offentlig sektor [Volunteers and paid workers on the same team. Enhancing the contributions from volunteers in pulic care]. Lillehammer: Østlandsforskningsrapport.

Scharlach, A. E. (2017). Ageing in context: Individual and Environmental Pathways to Ageing-Friendly Communities. The Gerontologist, 57(4), 606-618.

Skinner, M. S., Sogstad, M. K. R., & Tingvold, L. (2018). Voluntary work in the Norwegian long-term care sector: complementing or substituting formal services? European Journal of Social Work, 1-13.

Skinner, M. S., Lorentzen, H. W., Tingvold, L., Sortland, O. E., Andfossen, N. B., & Jegermalm, M. (2020). Volunteers and informal carers' contributions and collaboration with staff in Norwegian long-term care. Journal of Ageing & Social Policy.

Slagsvold, B. (1999). Norsk eldreomsorg: Hvor dårlig er dårlig? [Norwegian long-term care. How poor is poor?]. Aldring & Helse, 3, 12-16.

Snyder, M., & Omoto, A. M. (2008). Volunteerism: Social issues perspectives and social policy implications. Social Issues and Policy Review, 2(1), 1-36.

Solbjør, M., Ljunggren, B., & Kleiven, H. H. (2014). Samarbeid mellom frivillig sektor og kommunale tjenester på pleie-og omsorgsfeltet. En kvalitativ studie. Nordisk tidsskrift for helseforskning, 10(1), 43-55.

Tingvold, L., & Olsvold, N. (2018). Not just" sweet old ladies"-challenges in voluntary work in the long-term care services. Nordic Journal of Social Research, 9, 31-46.

Tingvold, L., & Skinner, M. S. (2019). Challenges in the coordination of volunteer activities in long-term care services. International Journal of Care and Caring.

Twigg, J. (1999). The spatial ordering of care: public and private in bathing support at home. Sociology of Health & Illness, 21(4), 381-400.

Vabø, M. (2012). Norwegian home care in transition-heading for accountability, off‐loading responsibilities. Health & social care in the community, 20(3), 283-291.

Vabø,M & Szebehely, M (2012). A caring state for all older people? In A.Anttonen, L. Häikiö &K. Stefanson (Eds), Welfare state, Universalism and Diversity (p.121-144). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

Vik, K., & Eide, A. H. (2012). The exhausting dilemmas faced by home‐care service providers when enhancing participation among older adults receiving home care. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences, 26(3), 528-536.

Wollebæk, D.,& Sivesind, K.H. (2010).Fra folkebevegese til filantropi? Frivillig innsats i Norge fra 1997-2009 [From popular movement to philanthropy? Volunteering in Norway 1997-2009]. Oslo/Bergen: Senter for forskning på sivilsamfunn og frivillig sektor.

Wollebæk D and Selle P (2002) Det nye organisasjonssamfunnet: Demokrati i omforming [The new organizational society: Democracy in flux]. Bergen: Fagbokforlaget.

Wilson, A., & Pimm, G. (1996). The tyranny of the volunteer: the care and feeding of voluntary workforces. Management Decision, 34(4), 24-40.

Øhrn, A. (2019). Frivillig omsorg for hjemmeboende eldre. In E. Hillestad & J. Tjessem (Eds.), Frivillighetens kraft: organisering av frivillig innsats i eldreomsorgen. Bergen: Fagbokforlaget.

Ågotnes, G. (2016). The Institutional Practice: Dynamics of practice at nursing homes: An ethnographic study of variation in hospitalization amidst uncertainty and continuity. (PhD), University of Bergen, Bergen.

A young and an old man viewed from above, walking away from the camera climbing stairs. Picture by John Moeses Bauan on Unsplash




How to Cite

Tingvold, L., & Førland, O. . (2021). Does context matter? Voluntary work in long-term care. Nordic Journal of Social Research, 12(1), 155–180.




Cited by