Waynedale Political Commentaries


Silver Alert proposal could save lives, ease minds


Bill in the hands of the House of Representatives by State Sen. David Long


It’s sad to say, but chances are, most of you reading this column probably know someone who has Alzheimer’s disease. More than 10 million baby boomers are expected to develop Alzheimer’s disease within their lifetime.

Consider that nearly 60 percent of Hoosiers with Alzheimer’s disease will wander away from home at some point, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Because of the problems with memory, thinking and behavior that accompany the disease, it is important to establish a system that will help return seniors to their caregivers or families if they wander away from their care centers or homes.

Recently, the Indiana Senate passed a bill to create what is known as a Silver Alert – modeled after the Amber Alert for missing children – to help protect the more than 100,000 Hoosiers with the disease and other endangered adults. 

This legislation, which now moves to the House of Representatives, will not only help protect endangered adults but also their families and law enforcement.


According to the Alzheimer’s Association what Hoosier families face is a national problem:

•Every 71 seconds, someone develops Alzheimer’s disease;

•As many as 5.2 million people in the U.S. are living with Alzheimer’s disease;

•Alzheimer’s disease affects half of the nation’s seniors over the age of 85 and one out of eight people over the age of 65 are living with the disease;

•More than 10 million baby boomers in the U.S. are expected to develop Alzheimer’s disease in their lifetime; and again

•Sixty percent of Hoosiers with Alzheimers will wander away from home at some point.


About a dozen states have notification systems to help spread the word when senior citizens wander away. Having a Silver Alert system in Indiana would give law enforcement additional tools, such as the use of electric highway signs, to alert people of a missing senior citizen or endangered adult.

Seven states have Silver Alert Programs and at least two states reported that they have legislation pending. Colorado, Georgia, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, and Virginia have Silver Alert Programs in place, according to the National Association of State Units on Aging. Ohio has legislation that has been signed by the governor, but is not yet in effect.

Most alert programs allow for media broadcasts of information on the missing person through radio and television reports. If Indiana’s Silver Alert bill passes, families could give their consent to law enforcement to use this as an additional tool in finding their lost love ones. It is their call in cooperation with the expertise of area and state law enforcement officials.

While some are concerned Silver Alerts may “overburden the system” or “lessen the impact” of Amber Alerts, that is clearly not the intent of the bill. Just as not every case involving children result in Amber Alerts, the same would be true with adults and Silver Alerts. More and more often, devices embedded in wristwatches and belts worn by Alzheimer patients can assist law enforcement in locating an adult who has gone missing. Also, some patients and families prefer to keep the medical condition confidential and will likely ask law enforcement not to make use of the broadcast tool that would be available.  Further, law enforcement officials can cite various ways an investigation into an adult who wanders off is much different than an investigation into a child abduction.

Finally, it is important that we not get into a discussion of whether the life of a six year old is somehow more important than the life of a sixty-six year old. All life is precious. Had Silver Alerts been introduced and codified prior to Amber Alerts, would critics say protecting children in addition to senior citizens would somehow overburden the system and public consciousness? I think not.

Since the Amber Alert system was introduced across America, many young lives have been saved. Silver Alerts hold out that same promise to families. Knock on wood that we see a day when few to no incidents require these sorts of alerts, but until that day, Hoosier law enforcement and Hoosier families should have these tools available.


Sen. David Long (R-Fort Wayne) is President Pro Tem of the Indiana Senate. He serves District 16, which includes portions of Fort Wayne.

The Waynedale News Staff
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