The politics of aging in Florida


Material Information

The politics of aging in Florida a case study of the Silver Haired Legislature
Physical Description:
x, 224 leaves : ; 28 cm.
Matura, Raymond Carl, 1948-
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Aged -- Political activity -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Politics and government -- Florida -- 1951-   ( lcsh )
Sociology thesis Ph. D   ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- Sociology -- UF   ( lcsh )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1982.
Bibliography: leaves 182-193.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Raymond Carl Matura.
General Note:
General Note:

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 000334439
oclc - 09385256
notis - ABW4079
System ID:

Full Text







Copyright 1982

Raymond Carl Matura


Acknowledging individuals' contributions to one's personal and

professional development can be reminiscent of award banquets where

honorees spend an inordinate amount of time thanking everyone with

whom they have ever had contact. However, one infrequently has the

occasion to give thanks publicly and, therefore, the opportunity should

not be wasted. Many people have influenced my academic life but the

following persons deserve special mention.

This study owes much to the cooperation of Joyce Jenkins, Aging

Specialist for the state of Florida, who coordinated the 1980 Silver

Haired Legislature and permitted my access to the data and to the

Silver Hairs in the investigation. This dissertation could not have

been completed without guidance from the members of my supervisory

committee. Drs. Felix M. Berardo, E. Wilbur Bock, Gerald R. Leslie,

and Harold C. Riker cooperated willingly and gave direction to my

entire doctoral program. Each has shaped my academic career in a

special way. Special thanks and praise are due Dr. Gordon F. Streib,

chairman of my supervisory committee, and Mrs. Ruth B. Streib. From

my arrival at the University of Florida, they accepted me as a colleague

and nurtured my scholarship. Both are not only fine teachers but also

very good friends.

Prior to my coming to Gainesville, I was on the faculty of Rio

Grande College. Were it not for President Paul C. Hayes' strong commit-

ment to faculty development, my three-year leave of absence would not

have been possible. Three other persons from Rio Grande are particu-

larly important: Dr. Samuel S. Smith, my former chairman and dean,

contributed significantly to my professional development and initiated

me into academic life-without his confidence, direction, and encourage-

ment my life course would be very different; Dr. Clyde M. Evans,

provost, always fostered opportunities to teach me interpersonal and

administrative skills and an appreciation for the total academic environ-

ment; and Mrs. Esther Rimmel, who has cared for me as her own son, has

shared with me her zest for life. Without my Rio "family" my doctorate

could not have been earned.

Finally, but most importantly, my thanks go to my family. My

mother and father, Nell S. and William Matura, sacrificed all of their

lives for their children and instilled in the three of us ambition and

strong values toward education. Their reward is our love and three

doctorates, earned in part by them. My brother, Dr. William S. Matura,

and my sister, Dr. Patricia A. Matura, have always been an encouragement

providing me with much support and love. We share each other's accom-

plishments. Also a debt of gratitude is due my mother-in-law, Fannie

Brodess, who provided child care services at important times.

My wife, Pamela, has played the most crucial role. Her editing of

this work made it understandable and acceptable for the degree. More

importantly, she has exponentially given value to my life since the day

we met. I am particularly proud that she has been able to complete her

own graduate degree even while giving birth to our child during our time

in Florida. My daughter, Meagan Elise, born at the midpoint of my studies,

had delayed this dissertation at least several months but has given to

us a new meaning for the word love. She made the hard time enjoyable.

Since no one member of my family can be singled out and because

of my love for all of them, I dedicate this dissertation to all of them-

to my family.



ABSTRACT . . ..... .. ix



Background . . 1
Overview of the Study . . 4
Relevance . . 8
Sociological Significance . 9
Gerontological Importance . .. 11


Introduction . . .. 13
Age-Based Interest Groups . .. 14
Senior Citizen Organizations . 16
Political Potential of the Elderly . .. 19
Organizational Aspects . .. 26
Florida's Political Scene . .
Discussion . . .
Summary . . 40


Introduction . . 43
Framework . . 50
Objectives . . .. 56
Hypotheses . . 58
Plan of the Study . . .. 59

IV METHODOLOGY . . .. ... 61

Introduction . .. 61
Data Collection . . .. 62
Variables . . 68
Summary . . .. 70



History/Development . . .
Preliminary Processes . .
Budget . .... ..
The 1980 Silver Haired Legislature Session .
Results . . .


Description . .
Attitudes and Behaviors of the Silver Hairs .
Discussion . . ... ..



State Legislators . .
Diffusion of the Silver Haired Legislature
Summary . . .



Discussion of Hypotheses .
Discussion of Objectives .
Experiential Learning Model .
Summary . .


Introduction ...... .
Discussion of Earlier Questions .
Generalizations .
Type of Advocacy . .
Future Research . .










. . 137

. . 137
. . 150
. . 157
. . 163

. . 165

. . 165
. . 166
. . 169
. . 176
. . 179

. . 182

. . 195

TORS ... 201

. . 210

. . 213






. . 129





BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................... .... 223


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Raymond Carl Matura

August, 1982
Chairman Gorden F. Streib
Major Department: Sociology

During the last decade there has been a movement from issue-

oriented, interest group-based activities on behalf of older persons to

activities which encompass political awareness and involvement by the

the elderly themselves. The ability of the elderly to self-advocate has

been debated conceptually; however, little empirical evidence has been

offered to support opposing views. This dissertation reports research

findings on the Silver Haired Legislature (SHL), a unique advocacy

approach by the elderly in the state of Florida. The SHL concept is

being researched for the first time.

A case study of the Silver Haired Legislature in Florida was com-

pleted utilizing both quantitative and qualitative methods: interviews,

questionnaires, participant observation, and content analyses. Data

sources included state officials, Silver Haired Legislature partici-

pants, the 1980 Silver Haired Legislature session, official records,

and the 1980 Florida State Legislature. Research results are given

which are used to analyze the processes and structure of the Silver

Haired Legislature, determine the effectiveness of this self-advocacy

mechanism, characterize the participants, and offer a theoretical

framework entitled Experimental Learning Model to explain participa-

tion by these elderly.

The Silver Haired Legislature is defined as an opportunity

structure, and, as such, challenges the present state of knowledge on

the politics of the elderly. This self-advocacy system promotes homo-

geneity among the various segments of the elderly which expedites the

consideration of their proposals by the Florida State Legislature. The

Silver Haired Legislature is a more efficient procedure in which to

compete for limited resources than are more traditional forms of advocacy.

State legislators acknowledge that the Silver Haired Legislature is an

effective advocacy group and that the political efficacy of the elderly

is increased by the SHL process. Finally, the successful passage into

law of SHL legislation demonstrates that the Silver Haired concept in

Florida creates an acceptable environment for the elderly to advocate

for themselves. Data from a national survey were employed to assess

both the diffusion of the concept and a trend toward self-advocacy at

the state level.


In principle, the United States of America's political system is

equalitarian in nature. Theoretically, every person has equal in-

fluence; in practice, however, it does not always work this way. One

reason for this difference is that citizens and various interest groups

have unequal resources. As these resources are converted into political

activity, inequality appears. Regardless of this reality, the citizens

of the United States possess a full panoply of political rights neces-

sary for political influence such as the right to vote, to form and work

for political parties and organizations, to petition the government, and

to stand for governmental office, as well as the concomitant rights of

free speech, press, and assembly that make the former rights meaningful

(Verba et al., 1978). Thus, the system contains a wide variety of

political rights equally available to all citizens.

These political rights represent a potential for influence by

individuals. Some citizens may choose to take advantage of these rights

because they have the motivation and/or resources to do so; others must

be encouraged by additional opportunities. If political participation

depends on resources and motivation, then this advantage can be counter-

balanced by the use of participatory opportunities.

The elderly in our society have not been viewed as an active politi-

cal group. Any number of reasons can be given for this conclusion.

Large numbers of the elderly are a recent phenomenon, and their needs did

not receive much public attention before the 1960s. Until recently, it

was assumed that elderly persons were cared for in their own family

networks. Assuming that the elderly were incapable of advocating their

own interests,or that their interests were too diverse,has been a popu-

lar notion. In any case, support for advocate actions will not be forth-

coming unless potential advocates find it attractive as well as promising.

Images of the violent protestor, the striker, or the placard carrier

will not appeal to most older persons. But advocacy as a form of politi-

cal participation can be attractive to older persons if it is made

appealing to them and if it offers an opportunity within the political

system to be influential.

Various groups and movements in the past have involved large num-

bers of the elderly but have lacked political successes. These histori-

cal failures lead to the conclusion that many elderly persons would be-

come politically active if they were provided the proper direction.

According to Arnstein (1969:216), "the idea of citizen participation is

like eating spinach: no one is against it in principle because it is

good for you." Such an ideology, however, does not influence behavior.

The means for increasing the political participation of the elderly

and their advocacy of their own needs have been neglected in research.

Apparently, making an appeal on behalf of a cause has become

sophisticated in almost every sector of our society except among the

elderly. The equalization of opportunities for political activity

coexists with inequalities in the use of such opportunities. To achieve

equality in the use of participatory opportunities, greater government

intervention may be needed. Group-based political activity can boost

the activity rates of individuals having little motivation and/or few


Contemporary articles on the elderly frequently repeat popular

conceptions without any serious attempt at systematic verification of

their validity. Whereas the 1960s may be viewed as the period for

acknowledgment of the elderly as an increasing population with specific

needs and the 1970s as a period of efforts to fight ageism by many

different age groups, the 1980s may be the period when the elderly be-

gin to act as their own best advocates. Moreover, with the exception

of a few studies discussed in Chapter II, most research and conclusions

have concerned the elderly's political influence at the national level

(Binstock, 1974; Estes, 1979; Hudson and Veley, 1974; Pratt, 1976).

Most issues insofar as the elderly are concerned have been related to

communities, cities, counties, substate districts, and states (Hess and

Kerschner, 1978). Increasingly the political mood of the country is

toward decentralizing the federal government and strengthening local

and state governments. Even amendments to the Older Americans Act

(OAA) passed in the mid-1970s have reflected this mood (Administration

on Aging, 1979). The OAA provides mandates and monies to the states

to develop advocacy programs in which the elderly represent them-

selves. These mandates and monies have encouraged the states to in-

clude various forms of advocacy programs in the state plans. Conse-

quently, research is needed to explore these various types of advocacy

programs. New advocacy programs are frequently created without suf-

ficient understanding among the elderly or the decision makers of

possible consequences. Possible consequences must be considered before

social-structural and institutional-level changes are made in an attempt

to improve the quality of elderly persons' lives. Furthermore, prior

research (Binstock, 1972; Cain, 1974; Hudson, 1974; Schmidhauser, 1968)

has focused on advocacy issues such as influence, income, housing, and

legality, and not on the advocate organization.

Overview of the Study

Some elderly persons are becoming more aware of pertinent issues

affecting them as a result of increasing media output, the growth of

senior centers and other places for them to meet, the increasingly higher

levels of education they have obtained, and the various organizational

efforts made by and for them (Cross, 1979; Harris, 1975). A question

to be explored in this study is how the elderly can advocate the issues

affecting them.

This study focuses on one form of advocacy known as the Silver

Haired Legislature (SHL) in Florida. The SHL is a mock legislative

session conducted by the state to which older persons are elected to

present, debate, and prioritize legislation. The SHL session is followed

by its members' lobbying the SHL bills in the state legislature, with

the goal of the bills' becoming state law. Florida was the second state

to adopt the SHL concept, and a number of other states have followed

suit or are considering its adoption. Since the SHL is a relatively new

phenomenon, no scientific inquiry of the SHL has been conducted. Thus

this exploratory case study is unique as well as being one of the few

known studies of political advocacy by the aged at the state level.

The Silver Haired Legislature (SHL) offers the elderly the oppor-

tunity to come together in a single, physical location and in,face-to-face

interaction. Thus, structured by the situation, the elderly talk to-

gether and explore their mutual interests and eventually seek a politi-

cal recourse for their shared problems. The actual participatory be-

havior by the elderly, rather than their attitudes, is central to this

investigation. An analysis of the SHL concept, in addition to a

description of its structure and processes,explores the reasons for

participation in it by the membership and its role in the political

structure of state politics.

In short, this study demonstrates how individual resources and

motivation give a participatory advantage to some of the elderly, and

how this advantage is modified by the way organizations and community

ties encourage individuals toward political activity. The results of

these effects are realized with the pattern of affiliation that the SHL

concept creates for the participants and in the political system.

Essentially, it is argued that the opportunities offered by the SHL

structure mobilize the elderly to advocate their own self-interests.

Further analyses of the data allow for speculation of SHL's successes

and its future role as an advocacy system.

Citizen activities can affect the behavior of governmental leaders

in two ways. First, they can communicate information about the pref-

erences of citizens. Second, they can apply pressure on political

leaders to conform to these preferences. This research focuses directly

on the first way and tangentially on the second. The concept of applied

pressure is difficult to operationalize and the political potential is

discussed more fully elsewhere (see Chapter II). Several researchers

(Binstock, 1972; Carlie, 1969; Hudson and Binstock, 1976) concluded that

the political potential of the elderly will not likely increase.

Kasschau (1978) offered empirical data to challenge this conclusion.

In one of the few studies of decision makers' perspectives about the

elderly, she surveyed over 300 decision makers. Kasschau (1978:345)

concluded that

at a time when social gerontologists increasingly emphasize the
heterogeneity in the life circumstances and philosophical out-
look of elderly people, the cross section of the decision-making
community interviewed in this study nearly unanimously (96 per
cent) agreed that older persons share similar problems regardless
of race, class, or other differences. Thus, in contrast to social
and political analysts who often offer their observations as
spectators to the policy process, these decision-making partici-
pants do believe that the essential objective conditions exist to
underwrite an aged based political interest group movement among
the elderly. That is, the aged do share common experiences,
common interests, and common problems by virtue of their being old
and, more important, that such common aging experiences span the
differences created by sex, race, or social class distinctions.
For these decision makers, the foundation for an age based in-
terest group exist in the unavoidable realities of aging.

Preliminary investigation for this research, as well as the data

collected, indicates a similar belief among Florida State lawmakers.

Therefore, a fundamental assumption for this study is that decision

makers perceive the existence of the necessary conditions for an aged-

based interest group to develop its efficacy. Consequently, there is

an inherent pressure on Florida's political leaders to recognize an

advocacy organization by the elderly of the state. One state legis-

lator,who wished to remain anonymous, said that "it was better to be

conciliatory towards an established elderly advocacy group than to

antagonize the general elderly population and have them become a hostile

interest group."

Policy makers nationally may share this perception which is evi-

denced at the federal level. When scholars (Kreps, 1976; Schulz, 1980)

offer suggestions for changes in the benefit structure of Social Security,

their arguments are frequently ignored by decision makers who wish to

avoid negative publicity among the elderly. Interestingly, in the

midst of national budget cuts and a national fervor for less government

spending, the current administration, early in 1981, considered the

major funding programs for the elderly as a special status and placed

them on an untouchable, protective list. The president has mandated

that Social Security reform shall not reduce benefits for those cur-

rently retired (Republican National Committee, 1981). It appears that

whether the elderly have a strong political potential or not, they are

construed to be a political threat.

These considerations make clear that a study of an advocacy sys-

tem as a form of political participation cannot deal with the simple

question of whether or not governmental officials are responsive to

citizens, or even with the more complex question of how responsive they

are. Responsiveness is not an either-or concept nor can it be placed

on a simple scale with some leaders being more responsive than others.

Rather one must consider the question of whose preferences the leaders

respond to and, most important, the mechanism by which the leaders

become aware of these preferences. Another important issue in this

research is a description of the participants. Who are these senior

citizens who attempt to shape the input of decision makers? This

investigation also seeks to determine why some elderly persons partici-

pate in advocacy while others do not.

The limitations imposed on the dissertation process confine the

study to the 1980 Silver Haired Legislature in Florida. Most of the

Silver Hairs serving in 1980, however, served in the 1979 SHL, and some

served in the 1978 SHL. Thus, the analyses include pertinent informa-

tion from earlier SHLs which demonstrate the development of the SHL con-

cept. As in most gerontological research, this study is affected by

recent period effects, whose changes in the political climate can

greatly enhance or nullify the applicability of the results. In the

examination of the SHL, the classical theory of democracy was accepted.

The theory asserts that public policy should result from extensive, in-

formed discussion and debate generated by the extension of general par-

ticipation to the citizenry in decision making. The theory was em-

phasized by Lowi (1969) who stated that the well-being of individuals

is in no small part dependent on the adequacy with which their personal

interests are protected by some larger, organized advocacy group in the

political bargaining process.

This investigation does not utilize any of the current dominant

gerontological theories. Estes (1979:11) argued that these theories-

relating to disengagement, activity, and life cycle-at best limit our

understanding of the aging process; "at worse [they] negatively affect

the development of public policies for the aged." Furthermore, the

lack of attempts by researchers who study the politics of the elderly

to utilize these theories lends support to Estes' conclusion. Thus,

the data from this investigation can be considered as baseline informa-

tion for the development of new explanations and foundations for a new

theory for the politics of aging.

The major objectives for this research are twofold: First, the

research about the political role of the elderly raises several questions

discussed in the Review of the Literature chapter. This study addresses

and clarifies several of the questions concerning the elderly's politi-

cal role, which are enumerated on the final pages of Chapter II. Second,

innovative structures and changing environments create fertile areas for

research which will add to the understanding and theorizing about the

aged. The history of advocacy for the aged has been characterized by

groups, individuals, and leaders who have made known the plight of the

elderly. As our social system has changed and the concerns of the

elderly have become visible, new alternatives for advocacy by the elderly

themselves have been sought. Preliminary research indicated that the

SHL concept presented an innovation which represented an amalgam of

former opportunities. Therefore, the second objective of this research

is an analysis of the opportunity structure that the SHL concept repre-

sents in the relationship to political participation by the elderly.

A number of research methods were employed: observation of the

SHL session; a survey of the 1980 Silver Haired Legislature utilizing a

structured questionnaire; a survey of the legislators serving in the

1980 Florida State Legislature; interviews with Silver Hairs, observers,

legislators, and state personnel responsible for the coordination and

organization of the SHL; and a content analysis of available documen-

tation and records. A survey of the directors of all 50 state offices

on aging was conducted to assess the diffusion of the SHL concept

throughout the United States.

Sociological Significance

The sociology of aging has fostered research about the elderly

that has been conducted in a wide variety of social contexts. Few

studies conducted by sociologists, however, have focused on the inter-

play of variables of an individual and a social system. The majority

of sociological studies have utilized survey technology which is well

developed and whose acceptance in practice is widespread. We are in-

clined to stay with what we do rather than venture into unfamiliar areas

with inadequate tools. Survey research, however, often becomes a kind

of aggregate social psychology, and, when it restricts itself to
"enumerating individual characteristics, it treats the individual as if

he were detached from his environment and hence as an abstraction"

(Boudon, 1971:48).

Social phenomena are mediated through individual actors. Hence,

sociological investigation must demonstrate how macrovariables affect

individual behaviors. By macroanalysis we mean the investigation of

phenomena which cannot be distributed among individuals (Carlsson,

1971). Macrophenomena correspond to Durkheim's (1938) concept of social

facts which are external to individuals. Therefore, microanalysis often

incorporates macrophenomena as constraints or incentives, and macro-

phenomena are generally intended or unintended results of aggregates of

individual actors or of collective decisions. It is useful to identify

characteristics of individual actors at the microlevel and properties of

social systems at the macrolevel within a conceptualization that in-

cludes both as well as their relationships. It is this conceptualiza-

tion which guides this sociological analysis. The primary goal was to

identify and construct a model to explain a social structure that is a

recent innovation in the sociology of aging.

Bennett (1970) stated that the elderly more than any other group

may be sensitive to their social environment, and that researchers must

analyze social environments in order to understand the elderly. Al-

though this exploratory research draws upon work done in the related

fields of psychology, economics, political science, and history, it is

the orientation discussed in this section which makes this research

primarily sociological. Furthermore, this study is an initial step

toward the development of sociological theory which can be utilized to

explain the behavior of the elderly.

Gerontological Importance
It is hoped that information from this study will contribute to

an evaluation of the Silver Haired Legislature concept, will demonstrate

the ability of the elderly to advocate on their own behalf, will de-

scribe an innovative strategy for political participation, and will

expand present knowledge about the politics of the aged. The diffusion

of the SHL concept, evidenced by the 50-state survey, should enhance

the pertinent findings of this study and may have some impact on policy

making and advocacy at the state level nationwide.

Results from the national survey of states in this study indi-

cated that almost all states have begun or are planning an advocacy

program for the elderly. (Nine states did not describe a program; no

state responded without an interest in advocacy.) The Older Americans

Act of 1965, as amended (Administration on Aging, 1979), specifically

Title IV, Part C, Section 421, provides funding for statewide advocacy

programs. Discussions with a sample of various state personnel involved

with programs for the elderly cited the Older Americans Act (OAA) for

encouraging the interpretation by states that advocacy by the elderly

was a mandate for the states to develop. In Florida, the Silver Haired

Legislature was included as an objective in the state plan (1979, 1980,

1981). The state plan was submitted to the Administration on Aging as

compliance for accepting OAA funds. Thus, a key focus of this research

is to determine if the SHL concept can be a useful mechanism in the

future of advocacy by the elderly.

This research also has a number of practical implications. It is

apparent that SHLs are diffusing throughout our society and are in the

process of becoming institutionalized. Since a considerable amount of

the financial and in-kind support for SHLs comes from tax monies, it

is relevant to study their concept systematically in order to offer some

evidence for the continuance or withdrawal of public investments.

Indeed, a central question of this investigation is, Can the elderly

advocate for themselves? Another question is,Which elderly persons are

being represented and what are the characteristics of the representatives?

The distinctive style of an organization's internal politics has direct

consequences for its external political involvement and influence

(Wilson, 1962). As a social policy question, it is important to deter-

mine both if and how the elderly are able to form organizations to

articulate their political needs. This study of the Silver Haired Legis-

lature's structure and processes may be of major relevance for geron-

tologists in that it may generate new conceptualizations about the

politics of aging.


Since the early 1960s and the overt attempt in the Kennedy cam-

paign to woo the elderly's vote with the "Seniors for Kennedy" group,

attention has been focused on the role of the elderly in American poli-

tics (Pratt, 1976). This practical concern of determining the voting

potential of the elderly instigated a plethora of studies. Campbell

(1971), Cutler and Schmidhauser (1975), and Glenn and Hefner (1972)

challenged the assumptions of earlier thinkers who believed that the

elderly would become more conservative, would shift to the Republican

party, would be uninterested in politics, and/or would become nonvoters

as they aged. As with other topics within the field of gerontology, the

reevaluation of earlier assumptions intrigued other scholars and

salient issues were raised. Voting and political interest patterns of

the aged are only two forms of political participation. Glenn (1969)

studied the political opinions held by age groups and Campbell (1971)

researched commitment measured by political party involvement and

attendance at political functions. The research showed that the aged

are actively engaged in moderate forms of political participation and

are underrepresented in more intensive forms (Hudson and Binstock, 1976).

These intensive forms of political participation refer to the aged as

an effective lobby or advocacy group. Since the 1971 White House

Conference on Aging, there has been a movement from issue-oriented,

interest group-based activities on behalf of older persons to activi-

ities which encompass the political awareness and involvement by the

elderly themselves (Pratt, 1976). Researchers have focused on develop-

ments in the national government as opposed to developments at state

levels (Pratt, 1980). Estes (1979) concluded that the neglect of

state-level analyses has produced a gap in knowledge of policy making

about the elderly at the state level.

Age-Based Interest Groups
Early interest groups such as the National Conference of Charities

and Corrections and the Fraternal Order of Eagles advocated for the

elderly and exhibited constructive views, but their efforts, which

focused upon pension provisions or improved welfare plans for the

elderly, were unorganized. These groups gained some notoriety during

the 1920s but were ineffective. The first large mass organization was

the Townsend movement during the 1930s. Over one million followers be-

came attracted to Francis Townsend, whose guaranteed pension plan was

supposed to create jobs by the exodus of the old from the labor market

and also end the Depression (Holtzman, 1963). The institution of a

national social security program interrupted the momentum of the

Townsend movement by offering a governmental response to the Townsend

Movement's central issue. Poor organization also helped to prevent the

Townsendites from becoming a continuing, powerful vanguard for the

elderly in the American political system.

The Utopians were another organization that offered a plan for

economic security. This group gained over one-half million members

during the Depression; however, the membership declined rapidly by

1933. A third group, Upton Sinclair's "End Poverty in California" (EPIC),

was equal in numbers to the Utopians (Pinner et al., 1959). The member-

ship of EPIC waned with Sinclair's 1934 gubernatorial defeat in Cali-

fornia. George McClain's "Citizen Committee for Old Age Pensions,"

whose membership peaked in the early 1950s, was the final mass move-

ment of this era. Each of these groups was started in California, and

Holtzman (1963) considered California's concentration of elderly who

were sensitive to economic conditions, together with a tradition of

independent political action, to be the reasons for their occurrence.

Several other smaller groups with similar goals were established during

this period in California.

These early groups influenced the climate of public opinion, and

there is some evidence to support the contention that these groups had

a political effect on the leaders who formulated policy. Historians

such as Achenbaum (1978) and Fischer (1978) acknowledged that these early

age-based groups were part of a movement that proposed changes in

governmental policy and created an accepting attitude among the nation

and politicians for old age legislation. Graebner (1980) concluded

that these groups forced Roosevelt's hand on the Social Security issue,

and Perkins (1946), a long-time close confidant of Roosevelt's and

his secretary of labor, wrote that few people understood the influence

of these pension movement groups on legislation. These groups are not

credited with being strong influencing agents on the social legislation

affecting the elderly during this era by scholars such as Putnam (1970),

who studied many of these early groups; Lubove (1968), who authored a

text on the development of Social Security; and Pratt (1976), who

contrasted these early groups with more recent groups of the elderly.

Rivalry among these groups prevented collaboration and limited their

efficacy. Thus, there are conflicting points of view and interpreta-

tions about the influence of these groups, but their consciousness

raising did publicize the plight of the :elderly. The fact remains

that if these early pension groups had not been in existence, the mood

of the country would not have been focused on pension issues and the

related problems of the elderly. One assumes that politicians and con-

gressional voting on legislation such as Social Security and other New

Deal programs were affected by the fervor created by these groups. Even

Lubove (1968), who was skeptical about the role of these groups, indi-

cated that they expedited the time table for New Deal legislation. The

attention given to the Social Security program, the Second World War,

and increased standards of living in the late forties diminished the

impetus for a national old age interest group.

Carlie (1969) suggested several reasons for the failure of these

early age-based interest groups to achieve their goals: (1) the aged

were too heterogeneous to support one issue of a charismatic leader;

(2) the groups often had an inadequate organization, lacked lobbying

skills or the resources to implement aims; and (3) the demands had been

unrealistic. Furthermore, these old age organizations were rapidly

organized and of too short durations to cause major impact.

Senior Citizens Organizations

By the 1960s several organizations had become advocates for the

aged. Pratt (1974) studied the contemporary organizations which in-

fluence senior citizens. He identified 10 such groups involved in

politics. Three are organized mass membership groups for the aged: the

National Retired Teachers Association (NRTA) and the American Associa-

tion for Retired Persons (AARP) function as one organization in the

political arena; the National Council for Senior Citizens (NCSC) ini-

tially formed to campaign for Medicare in the early 1960s but later in-

cluded other senior concerns; and the National Association of Retired

Federal Employees (NARFE) that concerns itself with little that does

not affect the federal employee. Four groups are trade associations:

the American Association of Homes for the Aging, the American Nursing

Home Association, the National Council of Health Care Services, and the

National Association of State Units on Aging. The Gerontological

Society of America is the lone professional group. The National Council

on the Aging is a confederation of over a thousand welfare agencies.

The tenth group in this 1974 study is the National Caucus on the Black

Aged, composed of several hundred professionals whose mission is to

accentuate the concerns of the black elderly. An eleventh group, the

Gray Panthers, is an activist group of several thousand persons which

gathers considerable publicity but lacks a political organization at

this time. In the closing years of the 1970s, several other professional

and trade organizations were formed, but their impact has not been


Pratt (1974) attributed the birth of modern senior advocacy to

social trends in the 1950s. He argued that social philosophies of

public agencies and trade associations combined with the sense of in-

justice about the elderly contributed to a growing awareness of the

old in our society.

The three mass membership associations are of interest here. The

NCSC, originating in 1961, was associated with the labor movement and

the Kennedy presidential campaign. The NRTA, originating in 1947, was

established for the social betterment of retired teachers. The early

goals of this group were not political but were oriented to a coopera-

tion with private enterprise, providing inexpensive services and improv-

ing the economic conditions of retired teachers. In 1955, after the

NRTA aligned itself with an insurance company, its membership increased.

Its services were expanded to aid all retirees, culminating in the

founding of AARP. By the early 1960s, NRTA/AARP became involved in

legislative activities. An improved financial condition from expanded

membership has enabled NRTA/AARP to divest its assets, lessen its

dependence on its original business ties, and expand its role. This

financial situation has permitted greater independence as an organiza-

tion to serve the elderly population by providing information, research,

advocacy, and other services. The NARFE, founded in 1921, is the

oldest group and is also the least influential. It rarely advocates

issues that are not pertinent to federal employee benefits. The organi-

zation began as a service group when federal employees received coverage

under a federal pension plan.

Pratt (1974, 1976) depicted these three national organizations

as having several common characteristics that enable them to survive

where earlier groups failed. The recent groups are more persistent in

their goals and depend less on external opinions and influences for

support. The earlier groups relied on charismatic leaders while having

either no plan or an inadequate plan for continuance of the organization.

The development of a competent bureaucracy with replaceable leadership,

the generation of revenues, and an accepting political environment are

conditions for the success of these latter senior citizen organizations.

The legislative aims of these recently developed organizations for the

elderly have focused on concerns of the elderly, just as other interest

groups in the United States have represented their constituencies. Com-

peting interest groups fostering legislation was termed interest group

liberalism by Lowi (1969). Beginning with the Kennedy administration,

interest groups with a constituency were more accepted as speakers for

their constituents and became more involved in policy making than in

prior administrations. This accepting political environment encouraged

interest groups for the aged to participate with the more traditional

advocacy groups of labor, medicine, business, and other business and

professional groups.

Pratt (1974, 1976) concluded that mass membership bodies consti-

tute politically viable entities which are capable of influencing legis-

lation. Research (Holtzman, 1963; Pinner et al. 1959) conducted on

mass membership organizations advocating elderly concerns prior to the

1960s indicated a pessimistic outlook for the future of these groups to

influence national policy. The current conclusion is that contemporary

old age political organizations are able to advocate for the elderly,

but,because they are multipurposed, they may not be as effective as

groups whose sole purpose is to lobby. These senior citizen groups have

increased the efficacy of the aged.

Political Potential of the Elderly
Pratt (1979) argued that there has been scant interest by political

scientists in the politics of aging. He denoted 1969-1979 as the time

in which research has increased and as a period in which the knowledge

about the politics of aging is less than adequate. He concluded that

researchers have begun to alter their thinking about the political

potential of the aged. Sigel and Hoskin (1975) observed that research

on the effect of aging on political orientations has not focused on the

aged themselves but has sampled nonaged groups and drawn conclusions

about an age effect. Cutler (1977) wrote about the need for a sub-

field of political gerontology whose foundation is in the sister dis-

ciplines of sociology and social psychology. These observations lead

us to discuss the knowledge base regarding the political potential of

the elderly to advocate.

Any advocacy group has as its goal the achievement of certain ob-

jectives and the increase of its political power. The preceding sec-

tion focused on national old age associations operating in two eras.

The first era included charismatic, single issue groups that existed

before 1950 and were labeled as age-based interest groups. The second

era began in the 1950s and can be considered as the senior advocacy era.

Gerontologists (Atchley, 1980; Binstock, 1972; Pratt, 1976) generally

agreed that old age groups prior to the 1950s did not have extensive

influence while the more recent old age groups have had modest successes.

There is no doubt that the elderly have enormous potential for advocacy.

Consensus on the potential of the aged to increase their political

power or become an effective advocacy group was a more debatable issue.

One group of scholars did not predict an increase of political efficacy

by the aged, but a second group did predict an increase. Several other

scholars offered insights about the question without stating a conclu-


Some gerontologists (Binstock, 1972, 1974; Cameron, 1974, Campbell,

1971) argued that the elderly will not gain any political influence in

the near future. Their predictions focused on such barriers as the

variety of interests of the aged, lack of group identity by the aged,

improved standards of living by recent retirees, life-long political

affiliations to which loyalties are maintained, and the lack of agree-

ment by the elderly as to their becoming a political threat. Binstock's

(1972) major premise against the elderly becoming an effective pressure

group was what is frequently referred to as an electoral bluff. Any

pressure group must be able to deliver votes, and Binstock saw a low

probability of the elderly voting as a block. Cutler and Schmidhauser

(1975) reported that many older individuals do not classify themselves

as aged, and, therefore, this lack of age identity prevents aged-based

political participation.

Henretta (1973) noted the general lack of interest in political

participation by large numbers of elderly persons. Other writers, such

as Cottrell (1960), Rose (1962), and Tibbitts (1962), viewed the

impetus for legislation pertaining to the aged as arising from the aged

themselves but stated that the pressure to enact such legislation

emanates from nonage-based organizations.

Hudson (1978) discussed two major political resources of the

aged: their legitimacy as a political constituency and their utility

to other political actors. These attributes contributed to past

successes for the elderly more than would be indicated by their num-

bers or political threat based on those numbers. The legitimacy of

policy for the elderly is based on the belief that the elderly are a

disadvantaged group who deserve governmental assistance because their

plight is beyond their individual control. Binstock (1972) contended

that most politicians have been careful to avoid offending the aged.

Other political entities have utilized concerns of the aged to enhance

passage of legislation favorable to their own interests, and benefits to

the elderly were a secondary concern. Hudson (1978) stated that politi-

cal benefits are diminishing for nonaged groups who exploit the aged by

portraying them as downtrodden.

Several other gerontologists, Butler (1974), Peterson et al.

(1976), and Ragan and Dowd (1974), suggested an increase in the politi-

cal power by the aged. They reported that numerical increases of the

elderly, improved socioeconomic status, higher levels of education, in-

creased homogeneity, and segregation of the aged will bring forth a

stronger and more effective political force for the aged. The five char-

acteristics are more frequently based on speculation rather than conclu-

sions from empirical research. To conclude that these five characteris-

tics will foster new political interests is an untested proposition.

The broad question of senior power has been discussed by politi-

cal scientists. When Hudson (1978) and Vinyard (1978) surveyed the

historical record and assessed the activities of contemporary advocacy

organizations, they emerged with a pessimistic prognosis. They stated

that political influence benefiting elderly Americans is often de-

rived from younger persons operating on behalf of the aged. In addi-

tion, there has been a tendency to study the politics of the aged

within the framework of a social movement.

There is a need for new research which concentrates on the elderly

as their own advocates. Prior research has shown that a large

constituency of vested interest groups has benefited from legislation

for the elderly. These vested interest groups include representatives

of social service providers,unions, nursing home administrators, and

insurance advocates. Vinyard (1978) referred to these groups who repre-

sented the elderly during the 1970s as a professional social movement

identified by the following characteristics: (1) a large proportion

of resources originating outside the aggrieved group, (2) a small mem-

bership base, (3) the development of a professional leadership group

which may not belong to the constituency, and (4) a claim that they

represent the aged when indeed they represent only a small portion of

the elderly. Vinyard concluded that an elderly self-advocacy group is

necessary. This is not to imply that professional advocacy groups are

not beneficial, for their establishment was a necessary first step in

the elderly becoming their own advocates. A similar transition occurred

in the historic development of other groups in this country, for

example, the mental health, labor, and civil rights movements. Each

had a series of representatives and vested interest groups advocating

for them before those defined as the target group became involved in

their own advocacy. If one views the politics of aging as passing

through similar historical phases, it appears as a likely outcome that

an advocacy system will develop in which the elderly themselves are the

major component.

A basic assumption for this research was that the past suc-

cesses and failures of political advocacy by the elderly were not a

basis for the future role of older persons becoming involved in their

own advocacy. Binstock and Levin (1976) emphasized that because

the American political culture stresses participatory processes, attempts

to secure the support of constituencies customarily take the form of

having constituencies participate in the decision-making processes of

policy implementation. Such participation frequently engenders delays

and goal adoptions that make for inefficient implementation of programs

and sometimes outright failure. Binstock et al. (1974) concluded from

a study of commissions, councils, and committees of aging that the

participation of various elderly constituencies in these bodies was com-

paratively ineffective and not innovative. Although this study main-

tains that these bodies are not efficient mechanisms for advocacy by

the elderly, the conclusion does imply that alternative forums of ad-

vocacy might be effective and innovative. Kerschner (1976) took a posi-

tion contrary to that of Binstock and described advocacy as a process

which enables the elderly to change their lives and realize their own


Turk et al. (1966) stated that new and stronger community ties

among the elderly will cause new opinions when former ties to family,

church, and other previous associations of the aged have been replaced.

The elderly have migrated to Florida in large numbers. Streib (1980)

estimated that over 650,000 elderly persons have moved to Florida since

World War II. Campbell (1971) pointed out that the old have the dis-

advantage of being a small minority of the general electorate. This is

not the case in Florida where the potential elderly voter is approxi-

mately 25 percent of the total electorate (Thompson, 1979).

Some observers considered the the political participation of the

aged as limited; however, Sigel and Hoskin (1975) indicated that

knowledge about older adults' political socialization and resocialization

is quite incomplete. Others suggested social class as a dominating

variable for participation, but Abramson (1974) offered data concerning

the declining importance of social class and the increasing impor-

tance of partisan issue attitudes during the past thirty years.

Douglas et al. (1974) stated that political opinions are more sensitive

to period effects than to age or cohort effects. Glenn (1969) con-

cluded that when the variable of education is controlled, an elderly per-

son is likely to be more knowledgeable about political issues than a

younger person. Conclusions of many scholars (Agnello, 1973; Cutler

and Kaufman, 1975; Foner, 1974; Glenn, 1974; Lipsett and Ladd, 1972)

have failed to support the proposition that the elderly become more

politically conservative with age. All of these findings question the

assumption that aging increases one's investment in the status quo and

resistance to change. In fact, Glenn (1974) contended that it may be

a cohort effect because he found that in recent cohorts of the elderly,

individuals who pass middle age have become more liberal. Glenn and

Grimes (1968) also indicated that among individuals of similar socio-

economic levels, those over the age of 60 consistently demonstrate a

higher interest in politics.

In general, the politics of aging has generated comparatively

little attention. Thus, these conclusions are tentative. This section

has focused primarily on the characteristics of the aged as they af-

fected potential political participation. These characteristics are

(1) diverse interests and socioeconomic characteristics; (2) indi-

viduals as leaders; (3) elderly individuals' general lack of interest,

knowledge, skills, and resources that contribute to a group; (4) age

identity; and (5) individual attitudes.

Organizational Aspects

Political participation is more comprehensible if one takes into

account the individual's organizational ties and the opportunities that

these organizations present. Trela (1971) conducted a study of the

political consequences of old age associational membership and found that

members of these organizations are more likely to engage in a variety of

political activities than other groups of elderly. It is important to

consider what kind of organizations will be able to articulate the politi-

cal needs of the elderly and how they will carry out the demands.

Henretta (1973) stated that the elderly have no continuous organiza-

tions around which to build an effective political movement. A further

tenable line of inquiry is to ask not whether the old as a social cate-

gory will become an effective political force, but rather under what

conditions and among what segments of the elderly is such an occurrence

likely to take place (Cutler, 1973).

Another important subject for research is the contextual effects

and political behavior of the groups involved; that is, How do the

structure and processes of political advocacy groups affect the flow

of political information (Sheingold, 1973)? Cutler (1977) presented

data that suggest political activity appears to increase rather than

decrease with age and that this general pattern continues at least

into the sixth decade of life. He concluded that decreased organiza-

tional participation by the elderly occurs when the elderly are con-

fronted with barriers such as poor health or lack of transportation.

In one of the few studies of a national age-based organization,

Pinner et al. (1959) studied the McClain movement and found that three

elements of participation are necessary for an organization to be

capable of effecting changes in the political world: commitment, inter-

personal experiences, and rationality. They added that an organi-

zation representing the elderly with significant proportions of these

qualities would be successful in the political arena. Kasschau (1976)

claimed that the elderly cannot rely only on national senior citizens'

organizations to lobby for their interests because these organizations

have an inadequate structure for the task. Thus, she claimed that older

citizens are underpresented in the processes of political negotiation for

scarce resources. Kasschau argued for new and innovative processes for

representation of the elderly's interests.

Kahn and Allegrucci (1981) studied the events that led to the de-

velopment of a state office on aging which they concluded is the most ef-

ficient advocate for the elderly in the state of Kansas. Several key

bureaucrats determined the state office to be an important need for the

elderly and involved themselves in the political struggle. However, it

was the strong advocacy by the elderly for the creation of the state

office, in concert with these bureaucrats, which became the central

force in its establishment. Without the support of the aged,the

legislators would not have been persuaded to create the agency. Pratt

(1980) pointed out that states do not simply mirror national concerns

and that for a full understanding of how government responds to

elderly persons' needs, a greater amount of attention must be directed

to government processes at the state level. The federal planners

apparently realized this when they included state advocacy programs in

the 1973 amendments to the Older Americans Act. The Silver Haired

Legislature, the focus of this study, is a new and innovative process

which could have the characteristics deemed necessary by Pinner et al.

(1959) and Kasschau (1976). Subsequently the Silver Haired Legislature

may fulfill the role that Pratt (1976) suggested is necessary for a fu-

ture successful political effort by the aged, a cohesive and central-

ized organization.

A further point is not whether to have participation but whether

to incorporate it as part of the official process (Weaver, 1973). Early

analyses of interests groups, including Milbrath's (1963) and Wilson's

(1973), emphasized sound organizational planning and effective communi-

cation with decision makers as necessary for effective advocacy. Some

scholars have gone beyond this essential need for maximizing an inter-

est group's capacity to employ a potentially useful resource. They have

suggested that an organization's goals should be the pursuit of a special

niche in the political process in order to influence policy. Groups

should attempt to become "institutionalized" in the policy process

(Davidson, 1977). Hardin (1978) supported this viewpoint and defined the

decision makers as an amalgam of certain agencies along with key legis-

lators and affected interest groups.

Another view is offered by Estes (1979),who utilized Warren et al.'s

(1974) dichotomy of citizen involvement and citizen action for the

political role of elderly Americans. Citizen involvement is charac-

terized by an agency's providing for appropriate input from the client

population served by the agency and whose backing would help the

agency's visibility and provide a rationale for its program. The assump-

tions are that "reasonable" citizen participants will eventually hold

the same views as the agency staff and that citizen participants will

support agency programs after receiving sufficient "education" from the


Involvement may be contrasted with the citizen action role which

emphasizes the needs and wishes of the citizens as defined by the citi-

zens themselves. This latter role represents the exercise of citizen

power. Participation in the action role is for the purpose of obtain-

ing political power-of changing the system to reflect more accurately

the needs and demands of the participants. This is in contrast to the

involvement role characterized by an emphasis on obtaining desired ser-


Two major frameworks of aged-based politics are currently employed

by gerontologists, although neither includes a Silver Haired Legislature-

type mechanism. Binstock (1976) claimed that government officials seek

to legitimize their policies by allowing access to amenable groups repre-

senting the aged. This view is similar to the citizen involvement role

previously discussed. Pratt (1976) emphasized the value of aged-based

organizations as sources of technical advice which is similar to the

citizen action role. An aged-based organization that is essentially an

initiator in the structure of the legislative process does not fit either

current framework. While it may be more representative of the citizen

action role, it would be more precise to describe the Silver Haired

Legislature as an amalgam of the two major frameworks or citizen ap-


Hudson and Binstock (1976) and Pratt (1979) agreed on the exis-

tence of new organizational groups of older persons at the state level,

such as the SHL,that have never been studied. Each of these scholars

strongly emphasized a need for further research that includes recently

developed processes viewed as necessary for expansion of practical alter-

natives for advocacy. Furthermore, these alternatives, if successful,

can become socializing agents for the elderly. Rosow (1974) pointed

out that the elderly need socializing groups which can provide group

support, new roles, and role models.

Florida's Political Scene

Florida has experienced a rapid growth in population since World

War II, primarily from northeastern and midwestern states. In 1980,

Florida was the fastest growing state in the country with a growth rate

in excess of 43 percent since 1970 (U.S. Census Bureau, 1981). Its

population of over 9.7 million ranks seventh in the United States. Per-

sons over the age of 60 account for almost 25 percent of the population

(Colburn and Scher, 1980). Dauer (1980b) claimed that the political

system of Florida is moderate in the political spectrum of pluralistic

politics. The state is neither conservative nor liberal and the politi-

cal mood emphasizes efficiency in government programs.

Dauer and St. Angelo (1980) stressed the importance of lobbying

in Florida State politics. All citizens have the right to lobby as

guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States' Constitution.

The art of advocacy and lobbying offers significant opportunities for

political action. Lobbyists are required to register with the state,

specifically with each chamber of the legislature; however, individuals

create their own definitions of the term lobbyist. There is no clear

demarcation between an interested citizen advocating a bill and advo-

cating by a professional lobbyist. Lobbyists can be either paid or

unpaid. Some lobbyists are funded by those they represent. In 1973,

these funds totaled over $100,000, or over $10 per session day per

legislator (Dauer and St. Angelo, 1980). Lobbyists are not required

to report on whom the money was spent. They need only to report how

the money was spent by listing the amount in broad categories such as

campaign contributions, entertainment, and so forth. The Silver Hairs

are unpaid but attempt to shape government policy. In 1980, the SHL

leadership had been requested by Silver Hairs to register for the first

time. This action reflects the Silver Hairs' self-perception as lobby-

ists. During other years, less than five Silver Hairs have registered

at their own discretion.

Effective lobbying is a full-time activity. The lobbyist must

be present for committee meetings, floor debates, and informal meet-

ings, as well as available and active when the legislature is not in

session. Part-time lobbyists such as the Silver Hairs are at a dis-

tinct disadvantage. The Silver Hairs entrust their state capital lobby-

ing efforts to a few members holding SHL leadership positions. Some

Silver Hairs frequent the legislature for personal contacts, but most

reported contacting their legislators by phone, mail, or at local

meetings to lobby SHL bills several times during a session, particularly

when SHL bills are to be acted upon.

Dauer and St. Angelo listed the informal rules of a lobbyist:

(1) Never lie to a public official; otherwise credibility is lost.

(2) Never threaten an elected official with defeat. This angers

legislators and tends to make themuncooperative. Effective lobbyists

do not use this type of threat. The elderly have been described as

having the potential for defeating public officials but not the ability

to deliver an election. The legislators, thus, perceive the elderly as

a visible constituency.

Business interests, followed by professional occupation groups

such as lawyers, teachers, and doctors, are well represented in Florida

by lobbyists. Dauer and St. Angelo noted only a handful of lobbyists

for senior citizens. This represents a lesser degree of involvement

which typifies lobbyists for associations representing retarded chil-

dren, university students, and abused criminals. Thus, the SHL as a

new form of lobbying has developed in an accepting political environment,

but in reality it competes in an environment dominated by better

organized and more generously funded interests.

The SHL lobby efforts must be continuous if success is to be

realized. The state house of representatives has a turnover of approxi-

mately 31 percent every two years and the senate's turnover rate is

45 percent every four years (Dauer, 1980a). The speaker of the house

and president of the senate are powerful individuals because they

appoint committee chairs, 20 in the house and 14 in the senate. Each

year about 1,800bills are introduced in the house while the senate

receives about 1,200. Approximately 450 general laws are adopted and

another 200 or so special or local acts are passed. These pertain to a

specific locality only (Dauer, 1980a).

In the state legislature, the House Health and Rehabilitative

Services Committee handles most senior citizen bills, but only one of

its six professional staff members works with legislation for the el-

derly because many other matters fall within the committee's jurisdiction.

The Administration on Aging and its local representatives, the Area

Agencies on Aging, are legally the official advocates for the aged. In

Florida, advocacy resides with the Aging and Adult Services Advisory

Council (Streib, 1980). This council has little visibility because

the Division of Aging and Adult Services is one of nine service pro-

grams within the larger Department of Health and Rehabilitative Ser-

vices (Bowman and Smith, 1980). In 1977, Florida ranked twenty-third

among states in the total number of professional employees in aging

services offices (Streib, 1980). Both Estes (1975, 1979) and Fritz

(1979) suggested that an umbrella-type agency for the aged which is

several bureaucratic levels removed from department directors, as exists

in Florida, inhibits more than it facilitates political action by the

elderly. In short, decision makers assume that the formal structure,

such as in Florida, represents the interests of the elderly when in

fact input from the aged is minimal. Therefore, a false consciousness

of participation by the elderly is represented and alternative actions

by the aged are considered anomalies to the system.

Browne and Epstein (1980) collected data in 1979 to compare

interest groups on behalf of the elderly in four states. Florida was

one of these states, and their study is the only known research that

describes the politics of aging in Florida. Their study was based on

several interviews with staff or officers of the six organizations in-

volved with state legislative politics on behalf of senior citizens

or issues related to them. These organizations were identified from

the list of registered lobbies, legislators' interviews, administrators

of aging programs, and recommendations from the respondents' interviews.

The six organizations identified as active in Florida were the American

Association of Retired Persons/National Retired Teachers Association,

AARP/NRTA; Congress of Senior Citizens; Florida Association of Homes

for the Aging, Inc.; Florida Council on Aging; Florida Nursing Home

Association; and Senior Citizens' North Florida Council, Inc. Active

local groups and organizations who advocated municipal or county issues

were not included.

The six Florida organizations studied were described in a variety

of ways as a small collection of heavy investors, lobbyists with few

directives from rank and file memberships, a collection of individuals

who pay little attention in maintaining the group, and members able to

serve their personal needs and their organization's work. Browne and

Epstein (1980) reported that only the AARP/NRTA lobbyists are continu-

ously active,with the other organizations lobbying when the occasion

warrants. They concluded that exchanges are rare among these six organi-

zations and no coalition building has occurred. Browne and Epstein

briefly mentioned the SHL in Florida, and, since its impact had not been

determined when their data were collected, the SHL was not included in

their analysis. They noted, however, that the SHL has a "decidedly

bureaucratized look"(1980:14) and is involved in serious politics of

the state while becoming a "cadre of active but somewhat aimless lobby-

ists" (1980:15). They excluded further comment on the SHL in Florida

because they lacked data. Focusing on the six organizations in their

study, they concluded that Florida has no organizational dimension to

its state politics and the elderly were unorganized. Statements by the

legislative staff and administrators interviewed demonstrated that

quiet contacts with the legislators on behalf of inexpensive programs

were the key ingredients for successful advocacy. It is this quiet

approach and an attitude favorable to economical programs in Florida

that consistently ranks Florida as one of the states near the bottom of

the 50 states on innovative government (Gray, 1973; Walker, 1969).


The research on the political behavior of the elderly represents

a conglomerate of issues. Given the generally short history of geron-

tological research and the only recent attention to the politics of the

aged, the findings and conclusions are somewhat uneven and inconclusive.

A large number of the findings reported here are of two types. One is

the summary and analyses of historical events relying on secondary data

and recall of situations in interviews. This group_ of writers is rep-

resented by Carlie (1969), who discussed the problems of pre-1950 old

age interest groups; Graebner (1980), who analysed retirement; Holtzman

(1963), who described old age politics prior to 1950; Pinner et al. (1969),

who made a case study of political behavior of the aged; Putnam (1970),

who reviewed California's old age groups; and Pratt (1974, 1976), who

focused on more recent old age advocacy groups.

The second type of scholarship reported here is what one can

label as contemplative essays. Without any intention to diminish

these reputed thinkers or cast aspersions on their scholarship, this

researcher believes that these opinions should be tested with empiri-

cal research. Explanations and ideas offered in these contemplative

essays have sometimes become accepted as social facts. Empirical

findings would enhance confidence in these conclusions and predictions.

Writers of the contemplative essays include Binstock (1972, 1974),
who has stimulated considerable thinking about the aged and predicted

minimal political impact by the elderly; Cameron (1974), who supported

Binstock's contention; Cutler (1976), who enumerated resources for the

elderly; Estes (1975, 1979), whose writings are suggestive for the social

restructuring of approaches to the elderly; Foner (1974), who attempted

to explain political behavior by the utilization of age stratification

concepts; Fritz (1979), who wrote on the Administration on Aging's

ability to advocate for the elderly; Hudson (1978), who realistically

viewed the funding programs for the elderly; Kerschner (1976, 1981), who

hinted for ways the elderly can improve their political influence;

Lipsett and Ladd (1972), who commented on political activity levels by

future cohorts; Peterson et al. (1976), whose view was similar to that

of Lipsett and Ladd; and both Pratt (1980) and Vinyard (1978), who

described the probable involvement in politics by the elderly. Pratt

(1979) summarized the optimism by acknowledging that the one subject

about which we haveagreement is that we need more focused research on

the politics of the aged.

Aside from the two aforementioned types of scholarship, there is
a third type, a small number of empirical studies about the politics of

the elderly. In the development of gerontology, some research attention

was dedicated to exploring popularly held notions. Therefore, while

data collected for the study of voting patterns seemingly point to a

shift of the elderly's orientation to political conservatism, interest

in politics by cohorts overrepresented the wide range of issues on the

topic. Studies representing these notions were conducted by Abramson

(1974),Agnello (1973), Campbell (1971), Cutler (1973, 1977), Cutler and

Kaufman (1975), Douglas et al. (1974), Glenn (1969, 1974), Glenn and

Grimes (1968), and Glenn and Hefner (1972). Without oversimplifying

these studies, we have a high degree of certainty that age does not

foster political conservatism, lack of interest in politics, decreases

in voter turnout or a reduction in political opinion'. Each of

these issues was popularized in the contemporary literature and in

earlier research that failed to include other variables. For example,

some variables were associated with age but were not necessarily caused

by age, such as health factors, transportation, and lack of controls for

socioeconomic status, or by attributing to age characteristics that are

more properly associated with cohort or period effects. Cohort and

period effects may be more explanatory in predicting some cohorts'

political interest, orientation,and voting patterns than are age.

Hence, a dearth of research remains which is pertinent to this

study. In short, What is it that we do know about the politics of the

elderly? Specifically, What can we say about the elderly advocating

for themselves in the present historical period based on empirical re-


Socioeconomic traits such as higher income and greater levels of

education do characterize individuals who become actively engaged in

political organizations (Verba and Nie, 1972), but partisan issues

(Abramson, 1974) increase political cooperation by the elderly. Turk

et al. (1966) suggested that the elderly who relocate are likely to

develop associations which focus on their communities to replace former

personal and family relationships. Roman and Taietz (1967) and Trela

(1971) maintained that the organizational situations and structures

are important in explaining the elderly's political behavior.

Population statistics and demographic patterns are sufficient

to underscore the importance of new research that appears promising for

the understanding of political behavior by the elderly. The sociologi-

cal importance of this study is strengthened by including the social

environment and social settings factors which offer the structural

opportunities for participation. An exploratory case study approach

is suited for this sociological exercise. Furthermore, viable politi-

cal participation would be strengthened by an ongoing organization as

opposed to short-lived groups centered on either issues or individuals

(Henretta, 1973). The few studies about the politics of the elderly

at the state and local level support this structural view. Henretta

studied an organizational group in Massachusetts and noted that its

demise was due to similar causes of demise in the mass aged groups of

the pre-1950 era, namely, that the Massachusetts group had a charismatic

leader, focused on specific issues, and did not develop a viable


Another monograph (Kahn and Allegrucci, 1981) concluded that the

Department of Aging in Kansas is the strongest advocate for the elderly

in that state because its role and position are institutionalized in the

perceptions of decision makers. Kasschau (1978) concluded from re-

search on decision makers' access and its effect on old age policies

that the elderly must take collective action as a group expounding com-

mon concerns before the elderly can increase their political efficacy.

This is more readily accomplished at the state or local levels than at

a national level.

According to the data collected by Browne and Epstein (1980),who

compared states and advocacy by the elderly in specific political con-

texts, a group such as the SHL does articulate senior citizen inter-

ests to a broader range of legislators than do other lobbyists of the

elderly's interests. Browne and Epstein concluded that different

lobbying styles emerged among the states in their sample. Their analy-

ses suggest that interest groups should be seen as facilitators of

policy rather than causal agents. They conceded that activists must

adopt and fit into a style suited to their environment. In other terms,

individuals who become active in politics, aged or young, must take

advantage of the opportunities offered in the social structure to

maximize their successes.

Miller et al. (1980) concluded that organizational activities

aimed at the collective efforts among the elderly must be developed

before advocacy will be successful. They strongly suggested that the

perceptions of organizational activity on the part of the elderly would

act to stimulate political involvement. Empirical studies (Brown and

Epstein, 1980; Heneretta, 1973; Kahn and Allegrucci, 1981; Kasschau,

1978; Miller et al., 1980) all agreed for the need to focus on the

situational determinants which include the social structure and organi-

zation to properly assess any advocacy by the elderly. The organiza-

tional structure is the key because it attracts advocates who are

elderly and who claim a certain homogeneity in terms of common con-

cerns in spite of actual heterogeneity of the aged population on a

variety of characteristics.

As a result of these empirical findings and in an attempt to

generate empirical data to augment the contemplative essays, this

explorative case study of a political advocacy organization in Florida

was initiated.


This review of the literature represents a broad perspective of

the research on the politics of aging. The nature of the findings has

raised many questions. Some of the inconsistent findings can be ex-

plained by the differences in methods, by the historical period effects,

by the sample used, by the theoretical framework, and by other re-

search limitations. Some of the other issues presented below as ques-

tions have not been tested empirically. Hence, we shall state some of

the unresolved questions that have been derived from the review of the

literature which are pertinent to this study:

1. Are the elderly capable of advocating their own needs?

2. What kinds of conditions would foster successful advocacy and

for what segments of the elderly?

3. Do advocacy innovations by the elderly have potential?

4. Are the demands of the elderly too heterogeneous and un-

realistic for a cohesive action?

5. If the elderly have lacked the necessary skills, resources,

knowledge, organizations, and opportunities for advocacy,

what conditions can change these limitations?

6. Does a lack of group identity among the aged impede advocacy?

7. Can elderly advocacy groups become a part of the political


8. Do organizations provide the link between the individual and


9. What are the individual characteristics of those persons who

participate in an effective organization?

These questions make clear that a study of advocacy and its

effects cannot deal with the simple question of whether or not elected

government officials are responsive to citizens or an elderly segment of

citizens. Rather, one must consider the question of whose preferences

government leaders respond to, and, most important, the mechanisms by

which they become aware of these preferences and become motivated to

act upon them. One of the main mechanisms by which the leaders be-

come aware of citizen preferences and become motivated to act upon them

is the system of political advocacy.

An important policy question is the determination of how the

elderly articulate their political needs. Cutler (1976) argued that

it is not necessary to presume unanimity among the aged, any more than

among blacks or women, to anticipate the potential salience of the aged

in politics. He took the position that advocates of the aged are in-

creasingly developing resources by which influence can be wielded effec-

tively in public political contexts.

Since states have been required to provide advocacy for the

elderly by the revised Older Americans Act, there is increased evi-

dence of activities at the state and local level by and for the

elderly. Vinyard (1978) predicted that at such levels, the chances

for success may indeed be greater than at the national level. This is

true particularly in states or communities which have an unusually

high proportion of elderly. Also, demands are frequently limited in

character at such levels and may not encounter the significant

organized opposition found at the national level. Instead, local

efforts may be needed primarily to push or prod an indifferent bureau-

cracy to think in terms of the special needs and interests of the

elderly. Atchley(1980) concurred and ascertained that the role older

persons themselves are left to play in politics is generally confined

to the local area. Exceptions are those older persons who have been

involved in politics steadily throughout their lives. At the local

level, older people may indeed be influential, particularly on non-

partisan issues, but nationwide politics offers older people very little

in terms of either power or participation. State-level politics does

not often afford older people the opportunity to increase their active

participation even though they might like to be more politically ac-

tive. Given the appropriate environment, however, older people can

increase their political involvement.

The conclusion to be drawn is that the political opportunities

of the elderly at the state level have been overlooked by researchers.

Their investigation can add significantly to the understanding of the

elderly's role in politics.



This chapter provides a framework from which objectives and hy-

potheses are generated. A major conclusion to be drawn from the

review of the literature on the politics of aging is that a minimal

amount of empirical data on the subject exists. Furthermore, even less

descriptive research has been completed on the forms of political par-

ticipation by the elderly. Concomitant with this paucity of research on

the political participation by the elderly is the lack of theory to guide

this research.

A goal for this study wasto develop an approximate middle range

theory as discussed by Merton (1949). Merton described middle range

theory as abstract but connected to the real world. Middle range

theories are clearly defined and operationalized concepts that are in-

corporated into statements of covariance for a limited range of phe-

nomena that are to be tested in a research process. This study approxi-

mates middle range theory because it offers an abstract explanation of

a limited phenomena in our world. However, unlike Merton's concep-

tualization, this study did not begin with concepts that became incor-

porated into statements of covariance. For Merton, middle range theory

was a process toward a goal, and while we accept the goal, we chose an

alternative process. This research was begun and continues in the

tradition of grounded theory offered by Glaser and Strauss (1967), al-

beit a modified version. Glaser and Strauss noted that their method

can be adapted to an investigator's research situation. The concepts

and hypotheses are derived from the data and are systematically worked

out in relation to the data during the course of the research. This

investigation is exploratory, and the derived ideas, findings, and model

are to be tested more fully in future comparative analyses. The goal of

this tradition is to discover theory through social research. Thus, this

study utilizes the process associated with grounded theory to achieve

the level of explanation known as middle range theory. This study is

guided by basic concepts in social science that describe and explain

political participation. Special emphasis is given to the notion of an

opportunity structure as an intervening variable.

The main concern of this research is to describe and analyze a

new phenomenon in the United States' political system that has appeal

to advocates for the elderly. This new phenomenon, the Silver Haired

Legislature (SHL), is characterized as an opportunity structure.

Several investigators have incorporated the concept of opportunity

structure in a usage similar to that found in this study. Verba and

Nie (1972) showed that the opportunity structure of a particular domain

of activity is a key factor which substantially influences whether or

not persons who are predisposed to continued activity will in fact

manifest activity. They implied that more research focused on oppor-

tunity structures might yield the data for us more fully to understand

the effects of an accommodating social structure which is necessary

before individuals are willing to participate in politics. Their

study, as does this one, concerns itself with political participation.

In gerontological research, Cutler (1977) suggested that the

individual's apparent withdrawal from social participation may simply

be a realistic response to the construction of the opportunity struc-

ture for participation. Carp (1968), in a study of older persons relo-

cating from one residential facility to another, found that individuals

engaged in activity more frequently in a facility whose structure of-

fered more opportunities for activity. Similarly, Hochschild (1975,

1976) offered the notion of exceptional opportunity structures as a test

for disengagement theory. She implied that a satisfactory test of the

theory must include individuals who disengage even when their environ-

ments encourage engagement by offering distinctive opportunities to con-

tinue their involvement.

Atchley (1971),in a study of professors emeriti, indicated that

it is the challenges of the social world or opportunity structures and

the attractiveness of the roles offered that encourage commitment to

activity. Also studying professors emeriti, Roman and Taietz (1967)

used the concept of opportunity structure; however, they did not define

the term precisely. They argued that engagement in activity is a re-

sult of opportunities for continued participation. Roman and Taietz

stressed the situational determinants of behaviors and concluded that

opportunity structures, conceived as a product of social structures,

can offer sociological explanations rather than focusing on individual

social traits and psychological explanations. They concluded that

opportunities provided in the organizational structure were salient

facts in their study. Roman and Taietz determined that the opportunity

structures providing for direct role continuity were discovered to be

more facilitating for engagement in activities than an opportunity

structure which required a change in roles. This latter finding is

central to the experiential learning model discussed later. Cloward and

Ohlin (1960) focused on the opportunities available to youth as an

explanation for the development of juvenile gangs. They argued that

the access to illegitimate means plays a large part in the distribu-

tion of juvenile deviant adaptations. Specifically, Cloward and Ohlin

stated that, while individuals can acquire the values and skills asso-

ciated with the performance of a particular role, they must also have

the opportunities to discharge the role once it has been prepared. In

the present study the explanation of behavior begins with the individual

as the first level of analysis and combines with social traits the

impact of community involvement and opportunity structures.

Therefore, since the idea of opportunity structure has some prece-

dence to sociological and, particularly, to gerontological research,

and because gerontologists have considered the concept as crucial in

explaining the activity patterns of older persons, the author of this

study offers the following definition. An opportunity structure is

defined as the relationships in a social situation which expand the

choice process from a particular range of alternatives.

The opportunity structure concept is not intended to continue the

debate of the adequacy of citizen participation in the American politi-

cal system. Others (McFarland, 1969; Thompson, 1970) adequately de-

bated the issue. The central focus of that debate was whether and to

what extent the study of political participation should be limited to

the actual participation situation in the United States, or whether

scholars should consider alternative possibilities such as new partici-

patory opportunities, groups, and techniques (Verba and Nie, 1972).

This critique of the level of adequacy in the system raises difficult

empirical questions. Thompson (1970) pointed out that many theorists

of participation assume that citizens are autonomous and are the best

judges of their own interests. Their assumption will not be challenged

in this research. Here it is assumed that citizen influence operates

in a context of national policy interest of citizen participation. Evi-

dence will be offered to demonstrate that citizen involvement is instru-

mental for the elderly. Further, Mogulof (1970) concluded that citizen

participation in general represents an unfulfilled goal in and of itself.

It is the essence of the American experience. In the process of giving

aggrieved groups influence over their resources, the life chances for

the entire society will increase.

The concept under investigation is known as the Silver Haired

Legislature (SHL) in Florida. This concept is described more fully

in Chapter V. The SHL is a mock legislative session conducted annually

since 1978 in which residents over the age of 60 are elected by the

elderly to present ideas, debate issues, and prioritize legislation to

be sponsored in the state legislature. Supported by public funds,

the SHL concept, introduced in Missouri, creates a vehicle in the

social system that not only expands alternatives but establishes a

forum for the range of advocacy alternatives to coalesce at the state


Only recently (Pratt, 1976; Putnam, 1970) have any case studies

of the elderly's advocacyefforts been published, and these efforts have

been at the national level. There have been at least two at the state

level. Henretta (1973) researched political protest by the elderly in

Massachusetts and Kahn and Allegrucci (1981) documented the struggle

in Kansas for a state department of aging. Given the sociopolitical

environment and states' rights mood of the nation evidenced by the 1980

national elections, advocacy efforts at the state level are predicted to

become increasingly more meaningful. This adds to the importance of

this timely research. Estes' (1975) application of Warren's dichotomy

of citizen participation will be utilized to describe the role of the

SHL concept. Warren et al. (1974) created a typology for citizen par-

ticipation-citizen action and citizen involvement. Each type has its

own dynamics. In the former type the state gives priority to the needs

and wishes of the self-advocates, and in the latter type the state

determines the needs and wishes of a group within the context of overall

state goals.

A further point is not whether to have citizen participation but

whether to incorporate it as part of the official process (Weaver, 1973).

Findings will be presented to indicate the institutionalization of the

SHL in Florida and its place in the official process as indicated in

the diagram (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 shows how the interests of the elderly are given an

advantageous position in the state political process by allowing the SHL

to have direct communication with the legislature rather than competing

with other groups for scarce resources. The members of the SHL increase



a) D
-C +-
4-0 (0


U 4-)





0. 5>


O L.
- --------..---JL.___..

V) a

4-) U)
o C.

0 Q.



e--r- n

*S- -

f0 QC
*- V-

00 c-

- 4 -- / +

i + ..-

O r-
4 1- L

o ,

0 S
*.- 3

-) 0

0 0


S- Q

.U 3
5-. 0.
4-: 0

C -



a o
J ,



0 o






CU 0

r- A



O 0

a 4
4. .

- -EO

.U 0).

S.- 410

*r O 0

C 0




(U 3
4-) 0
a S-
- CO
T --

the information flow from the elderly, their organizations, and other

community ties. The Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services

(HRS) supports the SHL because its visibility increases awareness of

aging programs. The SHL mechanism allows state legislators to gain a

new, direct channel for information to the elderly population. Recog-

nition of the SHL as representing the concerns of the aged also per-

mits the state legislators to direct senior citizens' concerns to the

SHL, which decreases demands on their time.

Another line of inquiry is to describe what conditions cause the

aged to become a political force and in which segments of the elderly

population is political activity greater (Cutler, 1973). Data offered

in Chapter VI lead to conclusions about this latter inquiry.

The data to be presented in Chapter VI describe the participants

of the 1980 Silver Haired Legislature in Florida. The data are impor-

tant for another reason. They precede a more extended discussion in

Chapter VIII of the factors that shape participation. A major concern

is the extent to which the Silver Hairs disproportionately represent

particular social groups.

Most studies of political participation demonstrate that it is

those persons with higher incomes, more education, and higher status

occupations who participate. There are many reasons for this,such as

greater resources, social skills, and psychological commitment. The

result is that those who may need governmental assistance the least

participate the most. The relationship between income, education, and

occupation will be utilized as an indication of status. The relationship

of status to other behaviors and attitudes will be analyzed in Chapter


The consequences in terms of governmental action of this asym-

metry will also be explored. Verba and Nie (1972) concluded that the

social status of an individual-his job, education, and income-

determines to large degree how much an individual participates. They

also argue that these social characteristics are affected by inter-

vening effects labeled as a variety of civic attitudes. The civic

attitudes, such as the psychological involvement and a feeling of

obligation,are tested in this study.

These concepts constitute a base line from which we look for other

forces of participation by the elderly. One set of circumstances af-

fecting participation involves the community ties of the Silver Hairs.

Participation is fully comprehensible only if one takes into account

the individuals' institutional contexts. Thus, the role of organiza-

tions and voluntary associations in relation to advocacy participation

is analyzed.

Voluntary associations can be considered as social bases of

democracy and, in particular, of American democracy (de Tocqueville,

1945; Mill, 1946). A full associational life has been considered the

hallmark of American politics. Such association provides an inter-

mediary level of organization between the individual and government.

This intermediary function has a twofold purpose; it can prevent the

occurrence of mass political movements by reducing frustrations or

conflicts, and it can serve as a training arena for citizens to in-

crease efficacy, participation, and influence. A rich political

participatory life may rest on a rich associational life. Organiza-

tional affiliation has been shown to be one of the most powerful

predictors of political activity that remains strong over and above

the social class of the individual (Nie et al., 1963). The assumption

is that voluntary associations allow for more opportunities for par-

ticipation in small units. Essentially, organizations are training

grounds in participation that can be transferred to the political

arena. Moreover, it is individuals in leadership positions who gain

most from the organizational experience. Consequently, when an oppor-

tunity structure such as the Silver Haired Legislature becomes acces-

sible, it is the leaders of community organizations who are elected to


It is argued that the SHL offers an encouraging environment for

political activity. This opportunity structure is likely to increase

the political activity of the Silver Hairs. Thus, the data demonstrate

what is termed an experiential learning model effect indicating that

the longer one is exposed to politics,or situations that require similar

skills, the more likely he is to increase his participation. The

experiential learning model is so named because the political out-

comes are a result of a series of life events. In each of these events

the individual has internalized some knowledge, skills, and behaviors.

In short, the individual has become political as a consequence of

socialization, role modeling, imitation, and opportunities which can

be reduced to the more generalized nomenclature of experience-based

learning. Figure 2 diagrams the processes suggested.





E -o


> 40
I "I


I 4


,4- 4) 0 -o

0\ +
0 U a
- o 0> 1 a

4.) .-0 s C

40\ E
0 10 0*-

I 4.
< 2

0 0 x

1 a


I I f

3 I

* -- 0 *r*
\" S 1 0- .-.
o 0 r
5-. Q) 0r
-) CO L 4.

o0 O *- 00..

0 i'CO
u ) ~)O


This experiential learning model assumes that individuals with

social characteristics such as post-secondary education, above average

incomes, and professional or technical skill occupations have been

socialized to the values and skills basic for success in politics. The

stratification literature contains studies that identify these traits

(Coleman and Neugarten, 1971; Roach et al., 1969). Some examples of

these social characteristics are community activities, self-control,

competitiveness, disciplined efforts, ability to communicate effectively,

and other-directedness. If these individuals learn and accept atti-

tudes of obligation to their fellows and if the need to become directly

involved in the activities beneficial to their communities is present,

they are likely to participate in local organizations. Members of

local organizations observe and participate in meetings and situations

that stimulate the desire to seek solutions. This experiential learn-

ing model is consistent with the substantial body of research on

social learning (Bandura, 1969; Honig, 1966; Skinner, 1953, 1959).

Learning occurs as a result of interactions with other people. Skinner

insisted that societies must make desirable behavior pay off. He

argued that behavior is the expression of the determining effects of

the past history of the individual. Attitudes and techniques conducive

to political participation are learned from the positive and negative

reinforcements that result from a person's behavior. Akers (1977)

integrated this concept of rewards and punishments, known as operant

conditioning, into a sociological explanation of deviant behavior. We

utilize rewards to explain the motivations of the elderly who have

demonstrated the propensity to become political advocates.

Since individuals with higher levels of education, income, and

occupations are socialized to become joiners in community organiza-

tions, their active participation is perceived as an acceptable form

for fulfilling their civic duty. Once a member of these organizations,

the novice becomes initiated to the system of rewards for serving

"others" in the community. The perservering novice gradually increases

involvement and accepts a leadership position. Thus, the organiza-

tion becomes a learning environment providing role models and roles for

the individual to play. The member who accepts the goals of the

organization and who expresses the desire to serve others is often

selected for advanced leadership positions, provided earlier tasks were

performed satisfactorily. These opportunities permit further develop-

ment of knowledge, skills, and behaviors that can be considered antici-

patory socialization for political roles. Typically, this person be-

comes more heavily committed in community-based organizations and

actively seeks positions that maintain role continuity. These leaders

also gain respect and trust within their communities. Consequently,

when structured opportunities such as the SHL become available, these

community leaders are the likely persons to be selected by members of

their cohort. The leaders may use the new opportunity to expand their

knowledge of politics and to increase their sense of obligation. Thus,

new and continued political activities may be stimulated which are

necessary to fulfill the community leaders' commitments. Each phase

in this model builds gradually on the prior experiences of the in-

dividual with the accompanying knowledge and skills originating in new


Atchley (1980) indicated that people who are involved in several

roles and a variety of activities need not find substitutes for lost

roles. He suggests that it is easier for these individuals to re-

distribute their time and energies among remaining roles and activities.

This can explain the Silver Hairs who increase their political activi-

ties because they are now consolidating their commitments after com-

pleting terms as officers in their community organizations. They re-

distribute their energies to SHL activities.


Before turning our attention to the discussion of general hypothe-

ses in this research, we have identified the broad objectives for the

study. These objectives are stated briefly and serve as a guide for

later discussions. They are intended to organize the information gener-

ated by the systematic data and other qualitative observations of the

Silver Haired Legislature concept and its operation. The objectives are

the following:

1. To assess whether the SHL is an innovative organization that

offers an opportunity for the aged to advocate for themselves

2. To determine if the SHL has enough recognition by state offi-

cials to offer realistic legislative proposals

3. To conclude if the SHL is well-organized for its purposes

4. To examine if the SHL increases political participation of

its members

5. To investigate whether the SHL provides a base for influencing

policy which reflects the self-perceived needs of the older


6. To explore whether the SHL stimulates its members' involve-

ment in community organizations

7. To determine if age heterogeneity is a barrier for advocacy

when the SHL provides the structure which fosters homogeneity

on the issues

8. To discover the conditions that influence the SHL to make

realistic demands on the political system

9. To study whether the SHL increased the elderly's political

power by becoming part of the mainstream in Florida's politi-

cal arena

10. To ascertain whether the SHL educates some segments of the

elderly to the political process and which skills and re-

sources of the elderly it enhances

11. To judge whether the SHL advocates for the general population,

solely for the elderly, or for certain segments of the elderly.

These objectives must be understood within the perspective of the

research, which is an exploratory study relying heavily on the descrip-

tive approach. Descriptive research is necessary to determine social

facts. The objectives are declarative statements derived from a series

of questions that a researcher formulates prior to beginning the re-

search. Thus, because these objectives are in nature generalized state-

ments, it may not be necessary to operationalize them. The data analy-

ses will be guided by these objectives, but the objectives emerge from

different starting points and do not form a totally integrated whole.

Large subjects can be studied in a series of stages. Completeness is

not possible because the overall objectives are exploratory and the

development of a knowledge base about advocacy groups of the elderly at

the state level is minimal.

Several general but somewhat more specific hypotheses were de-

rived from the objectives. Table 1 represents the hypotheses pre-

sented in the next section as they relate to the objectives.

Table 1

Hypotheses Derived from the Objectives

Objective number Hypothesis number

2 2,3,4,7

4 1

5 2,5,6

10 6

While a traditional research strategy would specify hypotheses

construction as an initial step deduced from a basic theoretical frame-

work, an exploratory study requires a modified strategy.

The hypothesis must be testable with information generated in the

case study. In order that flexibility be maintained in the search for

satisfactory and relevant findings, several broad objectives had to be

identified. From these objectives the following general hypotheses


H1 The Silver Haired Legislature as an advocacy process in Florida

does not increase the level of self-advocacy, political partici-

pation, or commitment of its participants.

H2 The Silver Haired Legislature is not an opportunity struc-

ture that provides an advocacy mechanism which enables

various segments of the elderly population to offer proposals

that expedite consideration by state legislators.

H3 The Silver Haired Legislature is not an effective organiza-

tion to compete for limited resources at the state level.

H4 The elderly in Florida are not recognized by elected decision

makers as having a centralized organization to present realis-

tic proposals.

H5 The Silver Haired Legislature does not create an advantageous

position for the concerns of the elderly in the legislative

process compared to aged-related advocacy prior to 1978.

H6 The elderly in Florida cannot advocate their own interests

with a centralized organization.

H7 The Silver Haired Legislature is not viewed as a potentially

successful advocacy forum for the elderly throughout the

United States of America.

Plan of the Study
Chapter IV describes and discusses the methodology for the research.

Chapter V traces the development processes of the Silver Haired Legisla-

ture concept and details the activities of the 1980 session of the

Silver Haired Legislature. Chapter VI reports the results of the ques-

tionnaire sent to the Silver Hairs. Sociodemographics, attitudes, and


behaviors of the participants are considered as well as the data perti-

nent to the testing of the experiential learning model.

Chapter VII details the data from surveys of the Florida state

legislators and the 50 state offices on aging. Chapter VIII focuses on

the data as they pertain to the objectives and hypotheses. Each hy-

pothesis is discussed and analyzed. Chapter IX summarizes the re-

search, addresses various issues raised in the review of the literature,

enumerates several issues, and suggests further research efforts.



This research utilized several data-gathering techniques such as

retrospective history taking, interviewing, observation, survey ques-

tionnaires, and content analysis. The use of unstructured interviews

with Silver Haired legislators and key state personnel responsible for

coordination of the Silver Haired Legislature was the initial method

employed. Following this, several retrospective histories of indi-

viduals involved with the Silver Haired Legislature were taken. These

exploratory methods, coupled with a study of existing documents, re-

cords, and written accounts offered by the State Office of Aging and

Adult Services and by Silver Haired legislators, fostered an under-

standing of the Silver Haired Legislature and clarified the processes


Sponsorship and approval for the study were obtained from the

state of Florida's Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services'

Director of Aging and Adult Services. The coordinator of the Silver

Haired Legislature served as a vital link between the investigator and

other state personnel. Permission to conduct the research facilitated

cooperation from state personnel and provided access to information and

records of the state of Florida.

A primary source of information resulted from the principal inves-

tigator's assuming the observer-as-participant role (Gold, 1958). The

1980 Florida Silver Haired Legislature met from July 27 to July 31,

1980, in Tallahassee, Florida, in the state capitol. Two forms of con-

tact helped to introduce the investigator and legitimize his presence.

On July 21, 1980, a letter was sent to all members of the 1980 SHL (see

Appendix A). This letter served as an introduction to the study and

to this investigator. Initial correspondence was well received as

measured by several return letters and contacts from other Silver Haired

Legislators who provided the investigator with information. In addi-

tion, there was an announcement by the state coordinator for the SHL

at the first general meeting of the 1980 Silver Hairs, who stressed the

importance of this research. The letter and the announcement were two

important contacts which helped to establish credibility for this re-


Data Collection
The SHL is composed of 160 members, 40 senators and 120 represen-

tatives. The investigator was given a staff name tag which permitted

access to all meetings and to every physical location available to the

Silver Hairs. An attempt was made to meet as many Silver Hairs as pos-

sible. It was assumed that the increased contact would ensure a more

favorable response to the study and future requests. The investigator

met over one-third of the SHL members during the observation period, in-

cluding all of the SHL leaders. Some introductions lasted only a minute

while at least one lasted several hours. Almost every legislator

remembered the initial correspondence,which saved the investigator con-

siderable time and effort since it was not therefore necessary to

explain who he was or the purpose of the study. In fact, some SHL

legislators brought materials for the investigator to scrutinize, and

other Silver Hairs were prepared for lengthy discussions.

The observation day typically began at 6:00 A.M. and lasted until

midnight. The investigator gathered information while the SHL was in

session by attending committee meetings, regional caucuses, leadership

sessions, conversations, meal times, the actual legislative session,

and the social breaks in the hotel where nearly all of the SHL members

were staying. Both obtrusive and unobtrusive strategies were employed.

At times, the observer role was difficult to maintain because various

leaders and important persons in the SHL provided the researcher with

information that could have easily resolved SHL issues and problems.

However, the observer role as a nonparticipant precluded the researcher

from divulging such information.

Unstructured interviews were conducted during the observation

period with state personnel, state legislators, various SHL members, and

the SHL leadership. The investigator also met with several individuals

from other states who were attending the Florida SHL to gather informa-

tion in preparation for their own states' SHLs. These out-of-state

observers represented the states of Alabama, Louisiana, and Utah. The

investigator was never refused information nor prevented from attending

any meeting during the entire observation period.

One important benefit of the observation period was the increased

understanding of the structure, processes, and membership of the Silver

Haired Legislature. This understanding aided the investigator in con-

structing a questionnaire which was sent to all Silver Hairs. Con-

siderable care was taken to design the questionnaire so that its con-

struction and presentation would ensure a good response rate as well as

reduce the problems of reliability and validity.

Approximately half of the questionnaire (see Appendix B) con-

tained forced choice-type questions with the remainder consisting of

open-ended questions. The instrument was six pages in length and con-

tained 48 questions which were divided into three broad sections. The

first section was designed to collect general background information

and sociodemographic data. The second section dealt with general in-

formation concerning the elderly: important influential groups in

Florida, information sources, and the most pressing problems of the

elderly. The third section concentrated on the Silver Haired Legisla-

tors' activities related to the Silver Haired Legislature and informa-

tion about the community activities of the Silver Hairs. The question-

naire was designed not only to test specific hypotheses pertinent to

the overall research but also to elicit information necessary to de-

scribe those persons who participated in the SHL. Several questions

were duplicated from the questionnaire distributed by the state of

Florida in a "call for proposal" for a statewide needs assessment sur-

vey. It was hoped that the state data would be available for a com-

parative analysis to the Silver Hairs' responses,but at this writing

the state data are unavailable. Another entity besides the state of

Florida was involved in the contractual agreement for the study and,

thus, who has access to the data is an unresolved issue at this time.

The questionnaire generated 159 variables; however, most of the variables

were not utilized in the analysis because of their limited frequencies.

The questionnaire was pretested by members of the SHL's senate

and house of representatives as well as by 10 additional individuals

who were not associated with the SHL; 5 of the 10 were over the age

of 60. An interview was conducted with all of these individuals in

order to discuss the questionnaire and to refine the instrument. The

final version of the questionnaire was professionally printed in large

type on pastel-blue paper (see Appendix B). This was done to ensure

easy reading by those respondents with opthalmological problems.

Three mailings to the entire 1980 Silver Haired Legislature were

made. On September 12, 1980, the questionnaires were delivered to the

post office but only 38 questionnaires were processed on that date.

The remaining 122 questionnaires were postmarked on September 15, 1980.

This delay was caused by poor communications at the post office. The

first mailing also contained a cover letter, a stamped, self-addressed

return envelope, and a sponsor letter (see Appendix A). A sponsor

letter was included to demonstrate authenticity of the questionnaire and

was assumed necessary to ensure a high return rate. The sponsor letter

was signed by the president of the SHL senate, the speaker of the house

of representatives, the Florida Department of HRS coordinator of the

SHL, and the chairman of the investigator's dissertation committee.

A second mailing was made on September 26, 1980. This mailing in-

cluded a duplicate of the items in the first mailing plus an additional

cover letter explaining the second mailing (see Appendix A). The third

and final mailing was on October 17, 1980. This mailing included a

personal letter of thanks to the respondents and a final plea for

participation and the return of the questionnaire (see Appendix A).

Of the 160 Silver Haired legislators, 139 responded by returning the

questionnaire for a response rate of 86.9 percent. Little is known

about the nonrespondents since anonymity was guaranteed to the partici-

pants. We do know that two Silver Hairs refused to participate be-

cause they believed the study to be an invasion of their privacy. At

least two other nonrespondents were older than 90 years of age. Five

other Silver Hairs who responded late enclosed notes of apology stating

medical reasons for their tardiness; these included lengthy hospital

stays and major surgery. It can be assumed that some of the non-

respondents experienced medical episodes that prevented their respond-

ing, but this is conjecture.

The Statistical Analysis System (SAS) was utilized in the analyses

of the data. Univariate and correlation matrix procedures were the

primary methods of analysis. Other procedures included cross tabula-

tions, frequency tables, chi square, and measures of central tendency.

In order for information to be collected from the Florida State

legislators regarding their views of the Silver Haired Legislature con-

cept,a short, one-page questionnaire was mailed on October 27, 1980, to

158 members of the 1980 Florida State Legislature. Two seats in the

legislature were vacated early in 1980, which explains the less than

160-member mailing. The questionnaire was accompanied by a cover

letter(see Appendix C). A duplicate mailing was sent on November 12,

1980. A poor response rate for this survey was anticipated as a re-

sult of conversations with a state legislator and staff members for

state legislators. Essentially, they argued the SHL and the elderly

to be highly political subjects which would discourage responses.

Several legislators announced their intentions to retire from the state

legislature, and closed their offices prior to the first mailing. Other

sources stated that the state legislators would be apprehensive about

responding to a questionnaire about the Silver Haired Legislature for

unknown political reasons. In spite of this conjecture and pessimism,

it seemed to be a worthy enterprise to pursue the data from the political

group most affected by the actions of the SHL. The state legislature

questionnaire had a response rate of 63 percent with 100 responses.

Content analyses of data obtained from correspondence, records,

and documents of state officials and the Silver Hairs were completed.

Broadly defined, content analysis (Holsti, 1969) is any technique for

making inferences by systematically and objectively identifying specific

characteristics of messages. This method substantiated data collected

from individuals and permitted an evaluation of the seriousness that

political groups have for the SHL. A primary function of thesedata

was to evaluate the successes of the SHL as measured by the tracking of

the SHL legislation to its final disposition.

A third questionnaire (see Appendix F) was sent to the directors

of the planning offices for the elderly in each of the 50 state units

on aging. The purpose of this survey was to assess the diffusion of

the SHL concept and to establish a list of contact persons in each

state where the establishment of a SHL or the planning for a SHL is

present. The initial mailing of this questionnaire was on January 29,

1981, and follow-up mailings and contacts of states not responding

initially were made on February 6 and March 2, 1981. Responses were

received from the entire sample.

All three samples were promised anonymity and the Human Subjects

Committee at the University of Florida ruled that the subjects involved

in this research were at no risk that could be considered harmful to

their well-being.

As mentioned earlier, the questionnaire to the Silver Hairs gener-

ated 159 variables. A number of these variables were created due to the

coding techniques of the responses, particularly those resulting from

open-ended questions. For example, 25 different problems of all age

groups were identified. Also 40 members of the Silver Haired Legis-

lature were listed as influential in the SHL. When coding these re-

sponses, the investigator created a variable for each response and the

respondent was coded as either including or omitting these variables.

Most of these variables had low frequencies, less than 5, and therefore

were not included in the reported analyses except in general remarks.

The questions which elicited interval data concerns-age, years of

residency, years of formal education, number of hours spent on SHL

activities, times of monthly activities, number of leadership positions,

and income per month-werecoded as intervals. Some of these variables

were recorded as ordinal data for the development of an index as a mea-

sure of status (see Chapter VI).

Nominal-level variables used in the analyses were birthplace,

state or country of longest residency, sex, marital status, employment,

life-long occupation, type of business, spouse's occupation, type of

business during employment, type of residence, type of co-residents,

community activities, income sources, types of groups represented in

in the SHL, influential individuals and groups in the state and the SHL,

information sources, types of problems confronting all ages, source of

knowledge about the SHL, reasons for involvement, chamber membership,

petition signees, important completed tasks as a Silver Hair, political

contacts, respondent's constituency, future participation plans, assis-

tance with bill authorship, new political and community activities, and

previous SHL membership.

The ordinal-level data were constructed from the following ques-

tions: age category was young, middle age, late middle age, young old

age, or old old age; type of degree was elementary school diploma,

junior high school diploma, high school diploma, two-year college

degree, four-year college degree, graduate degree, or other. The re-

spondents were asked to rate their health as better than average, about

average, or worse than average. Income compared to their own income at

age 55 and to that of others in the respondents' cohort was ranked as

either better, the same, or worse.

The Silver Hairs rated their respect for politicians as very high,

high, moderate, low, very low, or none. They also ranked their percep-

tions of the problems that the elderly face on the continuum of no

problem, somewhat of a problem, very important problem, or most impor-

tant problem. This question and ranking wereduplicated from the state-

wide needs assessment survey.

The SHL member's political role in the community was compared to

the member's political role in the community prior to SHL involvement.

Thus, both questions concerning the member's political role were an-

swered identically as the Silver Hairs categorized themselves as

decision maker, consciousness raiser, contributor, follower, or no part

in the process.

Consequently, the 44 variables were utilized in analyses of the

data from the Silver Haired Legislature questionnaires.

Several other variables were generated from the questionnaires

sent to the state legislators and the 50 states directors. These vari-

ables are discussed more fully in Chapter VII.


The information generated by the questionnaires and the data from

the other sources previously discussed were sufficient to test the hy-

potheses specified in Chapter III. The findings as they relate to these

hypotheses are discussed extensively in Chapter VII. Given the scarcity

of research on the topic under investigation, it was difficult to

utilize standardized measures or to employ measures from previous re-

search. Considering the exploratory nature of this research and the lack

of any previous investigation of the subject, it is held that the methods

are a reasonable first approximation and enable the researcher to reach

some valid, tentative conclusions.



The concept of a Silver Haired Legislature is attributed to

William Cason, who was the president pro-tempore of the Missouri State

Senate in 1973. He discussed the idea of a model legislative session

with Tennie Ross, a recent retiree (Goeke and Wolfe, 1980). Together

they patterned the Silver Haired Legislature upon a mock legislature

sponsored by the Jaycees in Missouri. Shortly thereafter, a grant was

made to the Missouri Jaycees from the Missouri Office on Aging to con-

duct the first Silver Haired Legislature in 1973. Since 1973, Missouri

has conducted a Silver Haired Legislature session each year with con-

siderable success as exemplified by the number of Silver Haired Legis-

lature bills which have now become law.

The Silver Haired Legislature (SHL) is a mock legislative assembly

of persons over the age of 60, and is concerned with issues confronting

the elderly. The SHL was developed in an attempt to bridge the gap be-

tween the many and diverse groups speaking on behalf of the elderly.

The Missouri Silver Haired Legislature was a catalyst for the state of

Florida's adoption of the concept, although with several modifications.

Bentley Lipscomb, the director of the Florida Office of Aging and Adult

Services within the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services,

is credited with fostering the Silver Haired Legislature in Florida.

Florida's experience with the SHL began in 1978 with skepticism con-

cerning its value, resentment from both professional groups and aging

groups within the state, and lack of knowledge about such advocacy

activities (Yoelin and Hamilton, 1979). Professional groups per-

ceived their role as threatened and were convinced that their roles

were sufficient for the advocacy of the elderly. Similarly, aging

groups perceived the SHL as an attempt to supersede their own political


With the influence of the State Office of Aging and Adult Ser-

vices, the Florida Council on Aging, and other supportive groups, the

SHL became a reality in July, 1978. The following goals reflect

the original intent of the SHL (Yoelin and Hamilton, 1979):

1. To provide an educational opportunity for the elderly to

learn through participation in legislative activities

2. To increase the level of participation and involvement of

retired professionals that may have no prior or continuing

contact with older adult programs

3. To develop a collective awareness among older persons with

regard to needs, issues, and policies that are of concern to

them and their age cohorts

4. To stimulate community organization involvement with groups

of older adults

5. To provide a stronger base for influencing policy which

reflects the self-perceived needs of the older population.

Considerable promotional efforts kindled a statewide interest in

the SHL. The Office of Aging and Adult Services assumed responsibility

for the organization and coordination of the SHL since the Older

Americans Act, through Title III funds, provided the primary funding.

In-kind contributions by state and volunteer groups were utilized as

matching funds. Several organizations have contributed significantly

to the SHL: the League of Women Voters, the Florida Jaycees, the Florida

State University, and the Area Agencies on Aging. Continuance of the

SHL has been permitted since the conducting of a Silver Haired legis-

lative session was listed as a state objective in the 1979 Florida State

Plan on Aging submitted to the United States Administration on Aging.

The study is primarily concerned with the 1980 Florida Silver

Haired Legislature. Following the initial 1978 SHL session, organiza-

tional and procedural changes have been made each year to improve the

functioning of the SHL. Therefore, one should be aware that each

legislative session was not structurally the same. For the most part,

the changes will not be discussed except where pertinent. Itis note-

worthy that the 1978 SHL was quite different from succeeding Silver

Haired Legislatures. In 1978, the SHL consisted of 100 members who

represented the state districts of the Department of Health and Rehabili-

tative Services (HRS). This initial membership was open to all seniors

over the age of 60. Subsequent participation, in the 1979 and 1980

SHLs, was limited to seniors over the age of 60 who were residents

registered to vote in the state of Florida. Furthermore, individuals

who were employed by the state and counties as service providers to

the elderly were not permitted membership in an effort to avoid any

conflict of interest. These restrictions to membership were adopted

by the 1978 SHL and were aimed at excluding seniors who lived in

Florida for short periods of the year or individuals who already had

access to advocacy channels, as in the case of service providers.

The SHL is innovative and will continue to modify its structure

and processes, reflecting the development of the program. This is to

be expected and demonstrates the SHL's commitment to its program.

Numerous other changes will not be isolated for discussion. However,

in discussing the 1980 SHL, it is necessary to describe the selection

process of the 1979 SHL because members of the 1979 SHL were recalled

to serve in the 1980 SHL.

The rationale for recalling the 1979 SHL was necessitated by the

resignation of the officer in the Office of Aging and Adult Services

who was responsible for the coordination of the SHL. A replacement was

not secured until the final days of March, 1980. This change of per-

sonnel created a three-month vacuum in planning since the coordinator's

position was vacant for that length of time. The primary planning that

would have been completed during this three-month period was to result

in the elections for the 1980 SHL. Rather than attempting to hurry the

process of elections and risk incurring problems, and thus delay other

planning, it was decided to recall the 1979 SHL. The operations of the

1980 SHL would have been severely hampered without this recall. The

newly installed coordinator chose to make appointments where vacancies

in the SHL existed. Usually the runner-upin the 1979 election for the

vacant seat was appointed or an individual was appointed after consul-

tation with local constituencies. Approximately twenty vacancies

caused by deaths or inability or unwillingness to serve consecutive

terms were filled in this manner.

This change of personnel had a twofold benefit for this research:

(1) the SHL has given strong indications of wanting a two-year term and

this opportunity permitted an evaluation of the two-year term rule based

on experience; (2) the two-year term allows this research to include

participants who have had longer commitments to the concept, which adds

to the reliability of the research. Indeed, several of the hypotheses

could not have been adequately tested without the two-term continuity.

Participation in the SHL membership began in March, 1979. At that

time individuals who qualified for elective office secured petitions

from various local groups, service providers, or the State Office of

Aging and Adult Services. Each prospective candidate was required to

obtain at least 100 signatures from persons over the age of 60 who

resided in Florida. Both the candidate and petition signees were obli-

gated to reside in the particular legislative district the nominee hoped

to represent. For the 1979 SHL, nominees represented the legislative

districts that composed the state legislature. This composition created

a SHL of 160 members, 40 senators and 120 members of the house of

representatives, the same number as in the Florida State Legislature.

This representation reflects more accurately the legislative process

and provides the SHL with several advantages. First, the process was

expanded from the original 100 members in 1978 to include 160 members.

Second, the representation was based on legislative districts as opposed

to service districts. The former representation is based on a logic of

homogeneity of the populace while the latter representation is based

on the ability to provide services from a logistic point of centraliza-

tion. The former is based on population and the latter was significantly

determined by geographical proximity. Third, representation similar to

that of the state legislature permits a more realistic experience of

the legislative process. And fourth, the identification as a Silver

Hair from a legislative district enhances an identity with the counter-

part in the state legislature. This relationship can be expanded to

a number of potential functions including information gathering,

public relations, advocacy, identification, lobbying, and so forth.

After the petition/nomination process was completed in March,

the nominees were permitted to conduct campaigns in the manner they

deemed necessary. As was expected, some campaigns were quite sophisti-

cated, particularly in the high-density areas of elderly populations.

Other nominees performed essentially no electioneering at all. The cam-

paign process stimulated an interest in some areas, not only for the

SHL concept but in the issues and concerns reflective of the respective


Elections were conducted in May, 1979. The county supervisors of

elections lent their support to the SHL by providing voting machines in

many areas, and where the cooperation or practicality was not sufficient,

paper ballots were employed. The League of Women Voters conducted the

local SHL elections in conjunction with their own goals to increase

political participation with a voter registration drive. This volun-

teerism exemplifies the participation of groups which contributed to the

SHL's becoming a reality.

Several other states have conducted Silver Haired Legislatures,

but the election process for the SHL in Florida adds a unique dimension

to the concept. Prior to the convening of the 1979 Florida SHL, no

other states where a SHL has convened have elected their Silver Hairs.

Florida's uniqueness broadens the attention given to the SHL and the

elderly's concern throughout the state. The election process increases

media coverage and allows an opportunity for the concerns of the

elderly to be presented, discussed, debated, and popularized at the

local level. Any new opportunity for advocacy must be accompanied by

procedures for communication and diffusion, and the election fulfills

this need. Thus, the SHL strengthens its concerns at the local level.

Issues relevant to the election process have given rise to con-

siderable consternation among groups involved with the SHL as well as

Silver Hairs themselves. Since the election process depends on extensive

volunteerism throughout the state, the supervising and mechanics of the

election have raised several problems. Ideally, the election should be

conducted in a uniform manner. One solution has been to have the

local election officials conduct the election either independently or

in tandem with other elections. Two limitations have prevented the full

employment of local election boards. Legal counsel to the supervisors

of elections has raised opposition to a political entity's involvement

in an election that is outside its jurisdiction. Essentially, a dan-

gerous precedent could be set and could open the door to requests from

a number of other groups to conduct an election. The other limitation

is the cost of the election. Each local entity spends several thousands

of dollars for an election, and this amount multiplied by the number of

local election boards could cost well over $100,000, which would exceed

the total expenditure allotted for the SHL.

A satisfactory solution to the election process is actively being

sought for future Silver Haired Legislatures. In any event, the 1979

elections were criticized because of variation in procedures and be-

cause the election process was not representative across the state.

Some polling places were inconveniently located, a shortage of ballots

occurred in some areas, votes were challenged, and there were charges of

unfair campaign tactics. The utilization of different groups, however

well intentioned, to supervise the elections merely raises different

problems. This is evidenced by the criticisms of both elections, the

1978 election conducted by the Jayceesand the 1979 election conducted

by the League of Women Voters. Yet the 1979 election attracted over

95,000 votes across the state, an increase of over 83,000 votes from

the prior election. The number of votes cast can be considered an

indicator for the identification of the SHL by the elderly as an im-

pacting and important advocacy group. This recognition is influential

for the continuance and further development of the SHL concept. State

support for the SHL is unlikely to diminish due to a growing interest

in the SHL by the elderly in the state.

As previously discussed, the 1979 election results were applied

to the formulation of the 1980 SHL, except for the appointments made

for vacancies. Requests to the Silver Haired legislators for the 1980

term were made in April, 1980, with the majority of positions filled

by May, 1980. Because of illness or death of Silver Hairs, a few ap-

pointments were made as late as July, 1980. With the membership in

place, a package of necessary organizational information was sent to

all Silver Hairs. This package included the procedure for the drafting

of legislation. Upon receipt, many Silver Hairs began their own pro-

cesses for bill drafting. In several sections of the state, particu-

larly where large numbers of the elderly reside, namely, Dade, Broward,

Duval, and Pinellas Counties, caucuses of Silver Hairs were meeting to

delineate tasks and to plan strategies for the 1980 SHL session. Organi-

zations involving grass-roots politics did not limit themselves to the

period of time after appointments for their activities, nor were they

from the densely populated areas of the elderly only. For instance, a

rural southern district of Florida representing part or all of eight

counties began in January, 1980, to formulate concerns for the SHL.

This group had leadership from the state legislators of the district and

the current and former Silver Hairs of the district. They conducted

open meetings of interested citizens that generated 16 suggestions for

the 1980 SHL. Likewise, other areas of the state conducted regular

meetings to encourage communication and an awareness of the SHL. At

the other end of the continuum were Silver Hairs in some sections of

the state who relied solely on each Silver Hair's individual effort.

Preliminary Processes

The major goal of the SHL is legislation. The initial step in

the legislative process is the offering of bills by the Silver Hairs.

The procedures for drafting legislation were received by the Silver

Hairs approximately two months prior to the annual session, and they

were requested to submit bills for introduction to the SHL five weeks

prior to the session. All bills received by the state coordinator of

the SHL were forwarded to the staff of the house of representatives

and the senate bill drafting departments. These senate and house staff

members performed several important functions with the draft version of

each bill. The bills were scrutinized for clarity, intent, and redun-

dancy with other legislation. The bills then were rewritten in the

standardized manner acceptable to the state legislature. Efforts were

made to ensure that draft bills' rewritten forms, called profiled bills,

were of similar purpose to the original intent. This process utilizes

the highly specialized expertise of staff members to certify the Silver

Haired legislation as presentable to the state legislature. This edit-

ing allows for greater clarity of issues when presented and decreases

the amount of time needed for further rewriting or restating of intent.

Other lobbying efforts must secure this expertise from other sources, if

at all. It should be noted that almost all legislation passed by the

SHL is rewritten after state legislators have agreed to sponsor the

bills. However, the important points are that the SHL's bills approxi-

mate the final language and have the benefit of the additional filter-

ing process.

Upon return to the coordinator's office, the bills are retyped on

a contractual basis with Florida State University and assigned to one of

the five legislative committees. The Silver Hairs volunteered for

committees,but all choices could not be accommodated. Second choices

were employed followed by random committee assignments. The coordinator

also assigned each bill to a committee. Some bills were assigned to a

committee which had only tangential jurisdiction; however, if the coor-

dinator did not evenly distribute the workload among committees, the

time parameters of the SHL would not be met. Some committees would have

an insurmountable task to accomplish while other committees would have

only a few bills to consider. This committee assignment of bills

allows for an equitable amount of time for each bill when it is con-

sidered in committee. The number of committees was five: commerce

and consumer protection, education, finance and tax, general legisla-

tion, and health and social services. Each chamber of the SHL, the

house of representatives and the senate, had a counterpart committee for

a total of 10 committees.

For the 1980 SHL, 100 bills were submitted to the state coordina-

tor's office. This contrasts with 135 bills submitted in 1979. The

deadline date for the bills was June 11, 1980, and 89 bills met this

deadline. The remaining 11 bills were accepted late only with the

cooperation and additional efforts of the state legislature staff. The

state legislature staff also provided a summary of each bill which

briefly stated (1) a summary of the present situation and probable

effects of the proposed changes, (2) the economic impact and fiscal

notes, and (3) additional comments relative to the similar effects of

other legislation, legality, implementation schedule, and other perti-

nent information known to the staff. Of the 100 bills, 26 were assigned

to the commerce and consumer protection committee, 13 to the education

committee, 26 to the health and social services committee, 19 to the

general legislation committee, and 16 to the finance and tax committee.

Approximately half of the profiled bills are concerned with health

in various degrees. Other dominant concerns are crime, housing, and

utilities. Below is a list of the titles for the profiled bills. This

list provides the type of concerns presented by the SHL. Some of the

profiled bills are denoted either as resolutions or as memorials. The

definitional distinctions are unclear, but, in general, a resolution

states a concern without a solution included (as a bill would include),

and a memorial is a statement forwarded to agencies, usually at the

federal level and outside the legislative impact of the state of Florida.

Silver-Haired Legislature List of Prefiled Bills


Telephone Solicitation
Home Repair
Older Physician License
Relief from Duplication of Insurance Policies
Protection of Public Utility Customers
Retirement and Health Insurance
Mobile Home Parks Rents
Health Insurance
Energy-Billboard Lighting
Energy-Waste Wood
Pharmaceutical Assistance
Mobile Home Park Rents
Regulation of Public Utilities
Utility Rates
Utility Bills for Elderly
Electric Rates Break for Elderly
Electric Utility Rates
Habitual Felony Offenders
Motor Vehicle Liability Insurance
Surplus Foods to Poor Countries
Return of Beverage Containers
Public Utility Matters of Residential Customers
Issuance of I.D. Cards
(Resolution) Decrease Utility Rates
(Memorial) Land for National Veterans Cemetery
Geriatric Education
Geriatric Chair in Medical Schools
Nurse Assistant (Aide) Training
SHL-Permanent Body
Training Program for Physical Assistance to Handicapped or Disabled
SHL-Permanent Body
School Superintendents
School Breakfast Program
Employment and Training of Elderly
Election of SHL Members
(Resolution) Cutting Red Tape in Government Agencies
(Resolution) Charter for SHL
(Resolution) Training in Skills for Employment

Children at Mental Hospitals
Social Service Stamps
Mental Health Facilities
Department of Aging
Terminally Ill Persons
Handicapped Access
Half-way Housing for Elderly
Labeling of Drugs
Medicaid-Nursing Homes
SSI Benefits in Nursing Homes
Medical Assistance
Funds for Medical Expenses
Care for Terminally Ill
Bill for Medical Service
Regional Medical Clinics for the Elderly
Disaster Evaluation of Disabled
Frail Elderly Group Home
Hospital Cost Containment
Medicaid Benefit Eligibility
Care of Children
Senior Committee
(Resolution) Amend CCE Act
(Memorial) Medicare
(Memorial) Congress to Not Reduce Social
County Gerontology Clinics
State Emergency Evaluation
Pedestrian Cross Walks
Low Income Housing
Reduced Bus Fares
Medical Expense Discount
Bicycle License
Prescription Drug Plan
Trans-Pay Differential for State Employe
Bus Rides
Cemetery Regis.
Pharmaceutical Assistance
Mandatory Retire. Based on Age
(Resolution) Initiative Power
(Resolution) Transportation and the Elde
(Resolution) Unicameral Legislature
(Resolution) New Legislative Procedures
State Lottery
Tax Relief
Interest on Loans
Tax Relief
Motor Fuel Taxes Public Transit
Property Tax Relief
Hospital Cost Containment




91. Retirement Cost of Living Increase
92. (Resolution) State Income Tax
93. (Resolution) Homestead Exemption
94. (Resolution) Sale Tax
95. (Resolution) Taxation-Legislative Approval
96. (Resolution) Reverse Mortgages
97. (Resolution) Second Gas Tax
98. (Resolution) Fla. Rental Housing Finance Authority
99. (Memorial) Tax Relief
100. (Memorial) Excess-Earnings Penalty

The state coordinator for the SHL met with the 1979 SHL leadership

in June, 1980, to finalize organizational matters. The leadership was

composed of the following persons elected by the 1979 SHL membership:

the speaker and speaker pro tem of the house of representatives,

the president and president pro tem of the senate, and the chairman of

the 10 committees, 5 from each chamber.

The primary source of funding for the SHL is from the Title III

funds of the Older Americans Act as revised. Title III accounts for ap-

proximately 75 percent of the cost and the remaining 25 percent is from

the general revenues for administration of the Department of Health and

Rehabilitative Services (HRS). A definitive breakdown of the total budget

for the 1980 SHL is not available and the total cost may never fare better

than an approximation. An estimated $60,000 was expended for the travel

and per diem of the SHL; another $40,000 was budgeted for the state coor-

dinator's salary, one secretary, and office expenses. However, SHL activi-

ties are not the sole tasks for the state personnel. These items and the

related expenses of typing contracts, supplies, printing, and numerous

other line items generated a conservatively estimated budget of over

$120,000 for the 1980 Silver Haired Legislature. The estimated budget for the

1981 SHLwas approximately $130,000. This budget does not include other

costly items such as the use of the state capital building for the

session or salaries of over 40 HRS employees who, while the SHL is in

session, assume various tasks such as registrating members, typing, bill

coordination,and serving as committee aides and ushers. Technically,

this group of state employees are volunteers, because their work

duties during the four days the SHL is in session are supposedly com-

pleted on their personal time in order to allow them to allocate their

work time to SHL activities. Essentially, the state employees were to

allocate an equivalent of four days' work for their volunteer efforts

which were during work hours. In reality, an unknown figure for these

salaries should be allotted to the SHL expenditures. Two other em-

ployees of the state legislature contributed substantially of their

time to the operation of the SHL. The secretary of the senate and the

clerk of the house of representatives and their staffs were carrying

out their duties of interpreting rules, offering advice, recording

statements, and operating the technical equipment in the voting pro-

cesses as though their respective employers, the state legislature,

were present.

The 1980 Silver Haired Legislature Session

This section is a narrative of the Silver Haired Legislature's

activities during the period July 27 to July 31, 1980. The 1980 SHL met

as an entity for the first time on Sunday, July 27, in Tallahassee, the

capital city of Florida. Registration and subsequent meetings on this

day were held in a hotel near the capitol building where most of the

Silver Hairs were lodged. Agendas, committee assignments, a folder

containing the profiled bills, bill summaries, and other types of informa-

tion were distributed at registration. It is important to know that the

registration period is the first time for the Silver Hairs to obtain

the complete set of bills which they are to deliberate. The regis-

tration area was crowded and the SHL group was very social. Conversa-

tions and discussions focused on social amenities and a few policy

matters. The observer judged the group to be healthy, vital, articulate,

well dressed, and in a jovial mood.

The first work session was convened at 2:00 P.M. and was entitled

"Orientation and Advocacy Workshop." A full agenda for the Silver

Haired Legislature is discussed in this chapter. The orientation

session was chaired by the state coordinator, and after brief wel-

coming remarks and presentation of the agenda, questions from the floor

were entertained. After the first question for clarification of the

agenda, another person voiced opposition to this research study of the

SHL on the grounds that it invaded the privacy of Silver Hairs, and he

requested a motion of formal opposition. There was a small applause of

support, and this investigator began to believe his research had ended

before it had even begun. The mood appeared to snowball when the

questioner stated that the Silver Hairs are not guinea pigs and several

hands waved for recognition as the applause grew louder. Several

Silver Hairs rose to support the research as necessary for continuance

of the SHL concept. The mood shifted and the group dispensed with

format and shouted for the questioner to sit down, shut up, and merely

refuse to cooperate in the voluntary endeavor of the research. An

overwhelming applause was given for the latter comments. The scene

symbolized the spontaneity and seriousness of the group. The state

coordinator voiced support for the research and stressed the positive

aspects of the study. The issue was resolved within a 10-minute time

span. The letter of introduction sent to all Silver Hairs stimulated

the opposition and yet at the same time served as a basis for the

majority's support. This situation motivated this investigator to

attempt as many personal contacts as possible during the session. The

opposition scenario had a serendipity effect because considerable in-

formation and the high return rate of the questionnaire, discussed later,

could be attributed to the situation.

The remainder of the orientation session was directed to serious

questions as well as unnecessary or trivial comments which were met with

boos and hisses from the audience. The group appeared attentive al-

though several Silver Hairs arrived late for the session. Shopping

appeared to be a prior concern for some of the group since approxi-

mately 40 shopping bags from a local department store were carried into

the room by the audience. Obviously, everyone did not feel compelled to

scrutinize the information received at registration.

Workshops were next on the agenda. The original and former

director of the Division of Aging in Florida discussed the value of

Silver Haired lobbyists and the importance of year-round lobbying tech-


The second workshop was composed of four Silver Hairs who dis-

cussed goals and objectives of the SHL. Several issues discussed by

this group demonstrated clear and logical concerns for the future of the

SHL. Among the items addressed were the necessity for a SHL charter

to institutionalize the SHL in Florida; interaction with other states

who have conducted SHLs; public relations for the SHL; the identifica-

tion of the demographics and needs of Florida's elderly; the financing

of the SHL, particularly the election process; the length of terms for

Silver Hairs; the importance of SHL independence from other organized

lobby groups, and the role of a Silver Hair in the community. The reso-

lutions for these concerns are essential to the future of the SHL.

The third workshop explained the strategy for developing SHL dis-

trict task forces. The presentation was based on the experiences of a

southern district of the state comprising eight rural counties. The

Silver Hairs and state legislators met in local forums in different

localities to generate communication between representatives and consti-

tuents. The presenter encouraged formation of other "grass roots

foundations" which would eventually develop the finances to support the

SHL. The primary goals of this strategy are to organize a network of

concerned citizens at the local level to increase political involve-

ment and to develop a SHL organization that is increasingly independent

of public funding and regulation. The receptiveness to the "grass

roots foundation" was cordial but defensive. Silver Hairs from various

districts in the state acknowledged the potential for this type of

grass roots participation but stressed the importance of the hetero-

geneity between districts and the resulting differences in levels and

forms of participation. The uniformity of a local SHL structure is

not any more applicable,they argued, than each state legislator dupli-

cating a specific structure for local input. Again, some issues such

as finance, participation, roles of SHLs, and terms of office were

raised which undoubtedly demonstrate the identification of crucial

organizational issues by the SHL. Both the Silver Hairs and State

Office personnel are cognizant of the need for a formalized struc-

ture for the SHL. The first two SHLs constructively expanded the con-

cept of the SHL and the organization now must evaluate its evolvement

for a more stable period to follow.

The final workshop of the afternoon was sponsored by the Federal

Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and was entitled "Crime Prevention

Measures." The workshop's intent was to focus on one of the predominant

problems confronting the elderly and Silver Hairs. An FBI agent pre-

sented a summary of statistics and an overview of the crime situation

but offered no substantial alternative as a solution. The Silver Hairs

explored the possibilities offered by existing programs in the ensuing

discussion period and probed for guidance to reduce the impact of crime.

The audience seemed perturbed by the lack of effectiveness by the

speaker to offer any innovations.

After a dinner break, the evening session convened at 7:40 P.M.

with a formal opening ceremony. The group sang the national anthem,

an invocation followed, the director of Aging and Adult Services ex-

tended a welcome, and telegram greetings were read from Florida

congressmen. Although telegram greetings are usually only a formality,

the congressmen recognize the SHL as an important constituency and

expressed the desire to be present although unable as a result of the

continuing session of the United States Congress. Put in another per-

spective, this gathering of less than 200 people captured the attention

of important political leaders.

The chairman of the Florida House of Representatives' Sub-

Committee on Aging was next on the agenda. He summarized the success

of the SHL and described the legislation passed by the state legisla-

ture of import to the elderly. In effect, he delivered a keynote

speech encouraging the Silver Hairs to be selective and to consider the

financing of legislation as well as the goals of potential laws. He

reinforced the necessity for year-round lobby efforts to increase legis-

lative success.

The meeting adjourned at 9:00 P.M. and several caucuses formed.

In all, at least three groups met accounting for approximately 60

Silver Hairs. With the traveling to Tallahassee and a long and hectic

day, it was surprising to see individuals voluntarily extending their

day to discuss issues, strategies, and the elections of the SHL leader-

ship to be conducted the following Monday. The individuals discussed

their responsibility for extensive reading in order to become knowledge-

able about the profiled bills. These caucuses fit well the description

of the backroom politiking common to American politics. They also

demonstrate the commitment the Silver Hairs attach to their tasks.

Beginning with the Monday, July 28, session, the SHL met in the

State Capitol. The environment of the house and senate chambers pro-

vided an attractive atmosphere for the Silver Hairs and further en-

couraged the approximate behavior of legislators. The Silver Hairs

sit at the desks of their state legislative counterparts.

The opening ceremonies and further conduct were patterned after

state legislature demeanor. The secretary of the Department of Health

and Rehabilitative Services addressed the full SHL,which was assembled