A Silver Alert is a public notification system in the United States that alerts the public when a senior citizen goes missing. The system was designed to help quickly locate and bring home missing seniors who have cognitive impairments such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other conditions that may put them at risk. Silver Alerts are similar to Amber Alerts, which are used to locate missing children, but are specifically tailored to the needs of older adults.
The Silver Alert program was first established in 2007 in Texas, with the passing of the Silver Alert Plan Act. The legislation was created in response to the increasing number of senior citizens who were going missing and the difficulty in locating them due to their cognitive impairments. The Act was passed with the intention of creating a system that would quickly and effectively locate missing seniors and bring them home safely.
When a senior citizen is reported missing, the family or caretaker contacts the local police department and provides them with information about the missing person, including a description of their physical appearance, clothing, and any medical conditions they may have. The police department then enters the information into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Missing Persons File. If the missing person is believed to have a cognitive impairment, the police department will also issue a Silver Alert.
Once a Silver Alert is issued, the information about the missing senior is disseminated to the public through various means, including local media outlets, electronic highway signs, and the Amber Alert system. The public is encouraged to keep an eye out for the missing senior and to contact the police if they have any information about the person’s whereabouts.
The Silver Alert program has been credited with helping to quickly locate and bring home many missing seniors. According to the National Silver Alert Coordinating Council, as of 2021, the program has been responsible for the safe return of more than 10,000 missing seniors.
However, the program is not without its critics. Some have argued that the program is not as effective as it could be because it is not mandatory for all states to participate, and even among states that do participate, there is a lack of consistency in how the program is implemented. Others have argued that the program is not as well-publicized as it should be, making it difficult for the public to be aware of the alerts and to know what to do if they see a missing senior.
Despite these criticisms, the Silver Alert program remains an important tool for quickly locating and bringing home missing seniors. As the population of older adults continues to grow, it is likely that the need for programs like the Silver Alert will continue to increase. It is important that states continue to support and improve the program to ensure that seniors who go missing are located and returned home safely.
It’s worth mentioning that Canada uses the Silver Alert System and some other countries also have similar systems, like the UK, Australia, etc. and they might have different names, criteria or methods to issue the alerts, but the main goal is the same which is to locate missing elderly or cognitively impaired people as soon as possible.