Rural ageing is a significant issue for policy makers and academics, with the increasing proportion of older residents in rural areas placing heightened demands on service provision at a time of economic austerity. In this context, participation and volunteering in older age has been drawn into policy focus. Alongside broader discourses of social capital and active citizenship, the prospect of active ageing has emerged as a key component in the delivery of community-based services under neoliberal welfare agendas. However, moves to formalise participation among the elderly are at risk of undermining everyday practices of voluntarism. Furthermore, the diversity of the older population means that the willingness and capacity of rural communities and individuals to undertake forms of voluntarism will vary considerably. These issues arise in rural Wales, where notions of participation have become intertwined with Welsh Government initiatives for community regeneration. Through empirical research, this article considers the different motivations of older people for engaging in forms of community participation, as well as constraints to these activities. In concluding, we reflect on the implications for local civil society in Wales.