Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Gerontology

First Advisor

Arlene Taich

Second Advisor

Vicki Mueller

Third Advisor

Marilyn Patterson


A cost/benefit analysis of the voting behavior of a purposive sample of citizens aged 76 to 94 reveals that disability limits turnout by increasing the effort needed to vote while the reasons to participate decrease due to the loss of social roles and relationships. Personal interviews were conducted with 16 poor, disabled , unmarried women to determine if the decline in voter turnout statistics that occurs in the mid-seventies indicates a lack of interest in voting by the advanced elderly or the inability to participate when so desired . The study expands upon the existing literature which implicitly accepts disability as a legitimate reason not lo vote . The increased effort needed lo vole due lo the onset of disability in advanced old age clearly effects participation . Fifteen of the 16 respondents had voted sometime in their life, but only six did so in the presidential election of 1992 , Five of these six needed assistance lo cast their ballot. Seven of the nine nonvoters would have voted if they could have done so from their home. The tool designed lo accomplish this, the absentee ballot, was ineffectual for this sample. The importance of an active social life upon participation was also established. Family influence was not a factor, but a relationship with a ' best friend' was strongly correlated with a desire to participate . Recognizing the impending growth of the very old population in America these findings suggest further examination of the rights and opportunities available lo the advanced elderly is warranted.