THE EDUCATIONAL COMPONENT
OF THE PROJECT
Mary C. Howell
The charge from the Kennedy Foundation for our Project was to teach health professionals about the problems and care of people who are both old and mentally retarded. We chose to define "health" broadly, to include well-being in every arena of life, to go beyond purely medical considerations.
We envisioned an Interdisciplinary Team composed of representatives from a variety of health-related professions. We sought to assemble, on a part-time basis, faculty who would serve as mentors to students studying in their various fields.
We intended to teach in many contexts. Graduate students in professional training were invited to join us for sixteen hours a week over an entire academic year, with a modest stipend. These students would function as full members of the Team, learning not only from the professional faculty member representing their own discipline, but also from faculty members representing all the other health-related disciplines.
Further, we anticipated opportunities to publish literature and to present at professional meetings. We planned to visit community residences, workplaces, day programs, and area offices of the state Department of Mental Retardation. Three one-day conferences were planned for each year, with presentations from our faculty (and students, as they became ready to present) for mixed audiences of professionals and paraprofessionals working with this group of clients.
Clients who are already in the care of publicly-supported service systems are growing old, and agencies charged with caring for people who are mentally retarded often claim that they know little about people who are old. Conversely, agencies providing care for old people maintain that they do not know about people who are mentally retarded.