First Advisor

Gerald F. Blake

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Urban Studies


Urban Studies and Planning




Project MAIN, Intergenerational relations -- Oregon -- Portland, Frail elderly -- Home care -- Oregon -- Portland



Physical Description

4, ix, 117 leaves 28 cm.


Two groups of urban residents present ongoing problems, the frail elderly and disadvantaged youth who are approaching transition from school to the work force. Many of the disadvantaged youth are at risk because of family background, inadequate education, and lack of work experience. Many of the frail elderly are unable to care for themselves because of debility, chronic illness, or functional impairments (Eustis, 1974). The United States is experiencing an unprecedented increase in the numbers of persons over 65 years of age and it is expected that between 1980 and 2000 there will be a 67 percent increase in persons 80 and over. These demographic changes are significant especially for long-term care policy for the elderly. There is an urgent need to provide the kind of care that permits them to continue to live in their own homes. The frail elderly perceive their need for a dependable source of food as a primary requirement. If this is not met, institutional care becomes the only possible option. Urban youth face an increasing pressure to take a job in order to earn money, often at the expense of further education. Part-time work and school can be managed, and with planning, the classroom curriculum can be blended with the job. Intergenerational programs present a possible solution to some of the problems of the frail elderly and youth. They can be brought together through one of these programs for their mutual benefit. Intergenerational programming is the process of planned and purposeful interaction between generations. The programs encompass a range of ideas as they are guided by the needs of the community and its resources to meet these needs (Newman, 1983). Project MAIN was one of these projects. In 1983 under the auspices of Portland Youth Advocates, Project MAIN was created to meet the needs of the frail elderly and youth in an urban area. Many of the frail elderly were confined to their homes, unable to do ordinary tasks such as grocery shopping. Low-income teenagers needed access to an income-generating jobs program that would permit them to remain in school. Project MAIN was planned to help disadvantaged youth and simultaneously enrich the lives of the elderly (Ventura-Merkel, 1988). Project MAIN was conceived as a dynamic entity that could not be seen directly, but perceived as a process that had qualitative effects on those with whom it came in contact. It was planned as an active participatory learning experience for youth. Relevant classroom curricula blended with part-time jobs. The focus was on full participation by the youth in the process of providing a shopping service for the homebound elderly. Two important elements of the project were active youth participation and project-oriented learning. The youth planned and operated a shopping service for the frail elderly clients. The youth continued with their education and worked part-time. They began with minimum wage and increases came regularly, following satisfactory evaluation by peers and staff. As they became more competent, they assisted the staff with supervision and instruction. A case study explored the outcomes of Project MAIN. A weakness in the data from guided interviews of the clients resulted from memory loss and confusion encountered in a few of the elderly. A strength was the flexible interviews which gave the elderly time to explore new ideas as they emerged. The outcomes of Project MAIN were measured by the level of satisfaction for both the elderly clients and the participating youth. The levels of satisfaction were high in the pilot project, with its four weeks of intensive training and careful supervision. Adequate funding from private organizations made this possible. In the demonstration phase, funding became an acute problem. Training and supervision of the youthful shoppers was curtailed. Although the clients found the service better than they had before Project MAIN, complaints of broken appointments and declining dependability began to be heard. It became evident that the youth were in need of better preparation and more intensive supervision. Because of lack of funds, it was not possible to supply staff for these tasks. From the outcomes of the pilot project, it is evident that the concept of Project MAIN is a viable one for meeting the needs of the frail elderly and youth. However, from the demonstration phase, it was seen that without adequate funding, the quality of the shopping service declined. Decisions need to be made in the early planning of a program like Project MAIN. Elimination of staff needed for training and supervision in favor if increasing the number of youthful shoppers can threaten the viability of the program.


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