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Volunteer work, Outdoor Activity and Wellbeing in older people – VOW

Volunteer work, Outdoor Activity and Wellbeing in older people – VOW

Mobility limitation causes difficulties entering outdoors without assistance and in the same time decreases quality of life. While emphasis in services provision for older people has shifted from institutional care to home care, increasingly frail older people continue living in their own homes depending on home care services. Volunteer work is an essential feature for social capital. The aim of this randomized single-blinded controlled cross-over trial is to study the feasibility and effects of a volunteer-assisted outdoor activity program on wellbeing of older people with severe mobility limitation. VOW-project was started in 2008 in collaboration between University of Jyväskylä and GeroCenter foundation. Individualized outdoor activity program lasted for three months during which time an appointment with the volunteer worker was arranged once a week. The research design is randomized controlled trial and the main outcome is quality of life. Participants were randomized either in intervention group or waiting list control group. VOW organized nine three-day training courses (totally 12 hours) for the volunteer workers.The main outcomes of this study are the social and environmental domains of the WHOQOL-Bref Quality of life scale. The secondary outcomes are the physical and psychological domains of that scale and loneliness and perceived social support, depressiveness, life satisfaction and mobility limitation which will be measured using validated scales. Focus group interviews among subgroups will provide qualitative data on the meaning of volunteering and participation. 122 participants and 48 volunteer workers took part in the study.


Finnish Ministry of Culture and Education

Finnish Slot Machine Association

Research group

Principal Investigator

Prof. Taina Rantanen taina.rantanen [at], Department of Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä

Doctoral student

Irma Äyräväinen irma.ayravainen[at], Department of Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä

Selected publications

von Bonsdorff MB, Rantanen T. Benefits of formal voluntary work among older people – A review. Aging, Clinical Experimental Research 2011:23;162-9.



City of Jyväskylä

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