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'Silver Alert' For Seniors May Come To Washington State

When the Legislature convenes next week, Rep. Sherry Appleton plans to introduce a bill for a silver alert system in Washington state.

Similar to the Amber Alert for children, this alert would be for elderly people with dementia who wander off. Appleton says 60 people went missing in the past year.

“Six-zero,” says Appleton. “I think it’s a lot of people.”

Appleton says a silver alert could have helped those missing people.

“What happens now is there’s a waiting period of four hours before they can actually do anything," she says.

Time is critical. A person with dementia who wanders off is likely to suffer from injuries or hypothermia if they’re not found within 24 hours.

More than 30 states have a silver alert system. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5 million Americans may have diseases that cause dementia. That number is expected to increase as the population ages.

But not everyone believes a silver alert is the solution.

Bob Calkins, a spokesperson for Washington State Patrol, says having another color alert could create confusion.

“What we think would be confusing would be a rainbow of different kinds of alerts,” he says.

“If you have a colored alert for missing elderly, then what do you have for teenagers, what do you have for hikers? We don’t want to see our different advocacy communities start to divvy up the nature of the alert.”

Calkins says law enforcement already uses the endangered missing person advisory for anyone reported missing, including seniors.

Year started with KUOW: 1994