Abstract: This paper conceptualizes voluntarism as a critical process at the intersection of changes underway in rural communities, and in health and social care systems. Three aspects of the evolving role of the voluntary sector are identified and set within a descriptive model of rural change. Initially, voluntarism is cast as a ‘barometer of change’ in health and social services, and in rural communities, then considered as a ‘mechanism of adjustment’ and, ultimately, as an emerging ‘space of resistance’ to these same changes. The nature and significance of each of the three dimensions of voluntarism is illustrated using results from suites of case studies of ageing in Ontario and the Waikato. The efficacy of the descriptive model and its tripartite view of voluntarism is discussed in light of the under-theorized and under-researched rural dimensions of ageing, voluntarism, and health and social care.