Silver Alerts are a type of notification system in the United States that broadcasts information to the community about missing persons. Modeled after the well-known Amber Alert system, that notifies the public about missing children, the Silver Alert is designed specifically for locating senior citizens. The objective of the alert system is to inform the general public and state and local authorities in order to aid in the safe return of the missing person. A Silver Alert typically consists of the person’s name, photographs, last known location, area of residence, vehicle description (if they were driving), and any medical conditions. It is broadcast through a wide array of media outlets such as local radio and television stations, highway signs, digital display information boards, local lottery terminals, social media, and wireless emergency alerts/cell phone notifications.
Silver Alerts came about not too long ago, in 2005. Oklahoma state Representative Fred Perry publicized his idea about an “AMBER Alert for seniors”. The following year, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed H.R. 1075, a resolution calling for a Silver Alert system to find missing seniors. The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety, responding to this non-binding resolution, added the Silver Alert to statewide notifications that are sent to the media and law enforcement agencies. Now, thirty-seven states and DC have Silver Alerts or a similar notification program to assist with the safe return of missing senior citizens.
Why are senior citizens suddenly going missing? They aren’t but thanks to technology and science the awareness and knowledge is more prevalent. With the number of older Americans increasing rapidly, so are the number of people with dementia. The National Aphasia Association explains, “Dementia is a non-specific clinical syndrome that involves cognitive impairments of sufficient severity to interfere with social or occupational functioning. It involves at least two areas of affected cognition – memory, language, reasoning, attention, perception, or problem solving. Memory loss alone is not necessarily dementia as there can be many causes of memory loss. Among the most common types of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body dementia, front temporal dementia, and vascular dementia. Dementia is caused by structural abnormalities in the brain tissue. Multiple biological factors and environmental factors contribute to dementia.”
The Alzheimer’s Association website also provides a plethora of statistics about the fast growing disease. 50 million people worldwide are living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Every sixty-five seconds someone develops Alzheimer’s and it is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. One in ten people over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s and two-thirds are women. It is estimated that this year, 2019, there are approximately 5.8 million American’s with Alzheimer’s.
With the growing senior citizen population and increase of Alzheimer’s, it is very important to alert the community as quickly as possible about missing persons so they can be found. A Silver Alert system offers a prepared and effective means to locate vulnerable citizens and help prevent tragedies.
Some suggestions to avert wandering elderly loved ones include:
Medications that can help reduce disorientation and wandering behaviors.
Keeping the person focused on activities and hobbies they enjoy.
Documenting the behavior so you have an idea of how often the person is wandering and where they might go.
Maintaining a routine along with a calm and quiet home.
Securing doors and windows and installing alarms on the exits to alert you when someone tries to leave.
Taking a daily photograph of your loved one so that you can provide an accurate description of their appearance to law enforcement if a Silver Alert is necessary.
Hiding car keys.
Wearing a medical alert bracelet which indicates the person’s name, condition, and who to contact in case of emergency.
Not leaving the impaired person alone. Sometimes this is possible with family members sharing the responsibility. Other times another option for living arrangements has to be considered for the safety and well-being of your family member.
Taking preventative measures are just as important as the Silver Alert System.