Effectiveness and sustainability of volunteering with older people living in care homes: A mixed methods systematic review

Melanie Handley, Frances Bunn, Valerie Dunn, Carolyn Hill, Claire Goodman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Older people living in care homes should be considered part of the wider local community; however, little is known about what enables them to connect with people not paid to look after them or family members. Volunteering can complement paid and familial support. While volunteering is common in community settings, care home residents are less likely to benefit from their input. We conducted a mixed methods systematic review and stakeholder consultation that aimed to identify volunteer activities in care homes and evidence for their effectiveness and sustainability. Databases were searched from 2000 to July 2021. Studies of all designs reporting volunteer-led activities with care home residents 65-years or over were included. Data on interventions, study population, study context, outcomes and implementation issues were extracted and synthesised. We identified 36 studies on the use, effectiveness and implementation of volunteering in care homes, although the overall strength of evidence was weak. Resident engagement and mood appeared to improve during volunteer-led activities, but there was little research examining the longer-term impact. Qualitative and stakeholder data suggest considerable investment is needed to initiate and maintain volunteering initiatives, but there are positive benefits for volunteers, residents and staff if an intervention is sustained. Financial cost for care home facilities is unclear. Interventions that address inequalities in accessing volunteer support within the resident population and between facilities should be considered.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)836-855
Number of pages20
JournalHealth & Social Care in the Community
Issue number3
Early online date24 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2022


  • care home residents
  • care homes
  • dementia
  • older people
  • systematic review
  • volunteering


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