"The Search" is on to identify all developmentally disabled older persons living in the northern 46 counties of Georgia. It's the first program of its kind in the nation.
"The Search," otherwise known as the Research Project on Aging (RPOA), is being conducted jointly by the Athens Unit of the Georgia Retardation Center and the University of Georgia. A $150,000 grant from the Developmental Disabilities Office of the U.S. Department of Health Education, and Welfare has been awarded to fund the three-year project.
Six counties-Floyd, Clarke, Fulton, Dawson, Gilmer, and Rockdale-have been selected as pilot counties representative of the full 46. Each county with the exception of Rockdale and Fulton, is located in one of the five Area Planning and Development regions of North Georgia Rockdale and Fulton are served by the Atlanta Regional Commission.
In the first phase of the project, social workers will try to find developmentally disabled persons 50 years or above in the six-county area. The disabled citizens will be identified by age, sex, race, marital status, and living conditions.
To be developmentally disabled a person must be 50 or older and have had mental or physical handicaps that originated before age 18. Typical handicaps would be mental retardation, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, or other neurological impairments.
In the second phase of the six-county pilot study, RPOA workers will assess the nature of the impairments and develop a program of therapy and activities to improve independence, dignity, and usefulness to society of the disabled senior citizens.
"The problem is that no one really knows exactly how many developmentally disabled older persons are in the target area," explained Sue Hartig, project director, at a recent meeting of Atlanta Regional Commission. "That's why we're having to ask groups on aging as well as private citizens to help us in the search to each of the six counties."
The project group is presently concentrating its efforts in the four non-metro counties with plans to blitz Fulton and Rockdale counties in the summer.
"We're spacing the program over three years because education of groups and individuals takes time," said Hartig. "Once the investigation is completed, service planning for future programs will become our top priority."
The Research Project on Aging is housed in the Athens Unit of the Georgia Retardation Center, 850 College Station Road, Athens, Ga. 30601. The phone number is (404) 542-8970.
Sue Hartig, director of the Research Project on Aging (RPOA), is shown addressing the Atlanta Regional Commission about the pilot program for the aged developmentally disabled.