Those caring for the elderly, whether it’s a parent or other relative, have a unique set of challenges. Ensuring that your elderly loved ones can retain some independence and dignity in their life as they experience cognitive decline – while also protecting them from that decline – is immensely stressful.
No matter how prepared you try to be, it is extremely common that a Dementia victim ends up wandering away and cannot find their way home. Nearly six in ten people who suffer from Dementia will end up wandering away at least once, and if not found within 24 hours, up to half may become seriously injured or die. According to a University of Florida study, less than 4% of memory-impaired seniors who wander can return home without help.
What is a Silver Alert?
Silver Alerts are a public notification system designed to help find seniors, particularly those with mental impairments, before they can be seriously injured or killed.
Modeled after AMBER Alerts, the well-known national alert system for missing children, Silver Alerts instead focus on the elderly, providing reassurance for anxious relatives that Good Samaritans out there will help find their missing loved one.
Silver Alerts vary from state to state, with some states issuing them from the Department of Public Safety, while others have the State Police, Highway Patrol, or Attorney General issuing the alert. The alert is shown on highway signs and broadcast on TV and radio in much the same way an AMBER Alert is.
Unlike AMBER Alerts, however, a Silver Alert does not interrupt regular broadcasting.
Criteria for Issuing Silver Alerts
Silver Alerts are emergency notifications, issued only in specific situations for missing elderly or vulnerable adults. In most states that have Silver Alert programs in place, the criteria to issue one relies on the missing person being:
- Age 65 or older
- Diagnosed and documented as having a mental disability or impaired medical condition
- Potentially in danger due to their disappearance
- Missing due to their cognitive disability
This strict set of criteria means that very few Silver Alerts are issued in a given state each year. For example, since being implemented in Florida in 2008, 2,781 Silver Alerts have been issued but only 268 senior citizens were recovered as a direct result. That’s about 347 alerts a year on average, and only 33 recovered people. More families deserve to have their loved ones found.
While clearly helpful for some, the strict criteria needed can hinder the impact of an immediate and rapid response to help find a missing senior citizen. Immediate alerts issued to a volunteer network that is within the essential 1.5-mile radius would make a crucial difference.
History of Silver Alerts
In 2005, an Oklahoma House Representative proposed incorporating a “Silver Alert” system into the state’s existing AMBER Alert system. Rep. Fred Perry suggested that doing so would be beneficial in helping law enforcement and media respond faster and more appropriately should a senior citizen wander and not make it back home.
In 2006, Oklahoma’s House of Representatives passed resolution H.R. 1075, a non-binding resolution that called for the creation of the Silver Alert system. This resolution eventually led to legislation that was signed by Governor Brad Henry in 2009, permanently creating the first Silver Alert program.
Similar programs began being promoted in other states, including one in Georgia in 2006 known as the “Mattie’s Call” program. Spurred into creation by the disappearance of Mattie Moore, a 68-year-old Atlanta resident with Alzheimer’s disease, an urgent bulletin was issued in 2004 to help find her. Unfortunately, her body was found 8 months after her disappearance, only 500 yards from her home. Her loss still led to the creation of the Mattie’s Call system, which is still used in Georgia today.
Which States Have Silver Alerts?
While Federal legislation has been proposed to make Silver Alerts a national program, it stalled in Congress in 2013 and has not yet been passed.
As of 2021, 28 states have formal Silver Alert programs that are titled as such. Those states are:
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
While not having a formal Silver Alert program, there are a total of 18 other states that have nearly identical or even broader reaching programs that cover the same criteria as a Silver Alert program.
- Alabama (Missing Senior Alert)
- Colorado (Missing Senior Citizen Alert)
- Delaware (Gold Alert)
- Georgia (Mattie’s Call)
- Kentucky (Golden Alert)
- Michigan (Mozelle Senior or Vulnerable Adult Medical Alert)
- Minnesota (Brandon’s Law)
- Missouri (Endangered Person Advisory)
- Montana (Missing and Endangered Persons Advisory)
- Nebraska (Endangered Missing Advisory)
- New Hampshire (Missing Senior Citizen Alert)
- New York (Missing Vulnerable Adult Alert)
- Ohio (Missing Adult Alert)
- Pennsylvania (Missing and Endangered Person Advisory)
- South Dakota (Endangered Persons Advisory)
- Utah (Endangered Person Advisory)
- Virginia (Senior Alert)
- Wyoming (Endangered Person Advisory)
How You Can Help
You can help find missing seniors before a Silver Alert needs to be issued by downloading the Q5id Guardian app and being a volunteer. Guardian volunteers simply need to be able to receive alerts if someone has gone missing in their area – and if they’re able to help in the search, great!
Alerts are only sent when a missing person is lost somewhere nearby and you are genuinely close enough to help. By keeping alerts high localized, you know that you can actually make a difference in the search. By participating as a Guardian volunteer, you’re actively helping make your community safer for our vulnerable seniors.
Get started by setting up your login – enroll in the Q5id Proven Identity app to verify your identity and login to the official Guardian app!