Silver Alert System needed tool to help senior citizens, families

Published 8:33 pm Monday, February 15, 2010

Societies are often judged on how they look out for and care forthe youngest and the oldest of their citizens.

An important aspect of looking out for the young and old involvesmaking sure they are safe and sound in the presence of family orloved ones. Unfortunately, criminal activity, mental infirmitiesand other intrusions too often create separations.

For young victims, many states since 1996 have implemented theAmber Alert System to help authorities be on the lookout formissing children. Since then, the system – named for AmberHagerman, who was abducted while riding her bicycle and was thenbrutally murdered in 1996 – has helped locate and recover almost500 missing children.

On the other end of the age spectrum, some states have enactedSilver Alert Systems for the same purpose to help seniorcitizens.

Bills pending in the Mississippi Legislature would see the MagnoliaState as the latest to join the list of states with thesystem.

One need look no further than Brookhaven to find an example of howthe Silver Alert System may have been able to help a belovedcommunity had Mississippi had the system in place.

Almost two years, on Feb. 28, 2008, Virginia Ratliff leftBrookhaven to go visit her husband Charles, who was in the hospitalin Jackson. Neither she nor the 1999 Mercury Grand Marquis she wasdriving have been seen since.

Where an adult must be gone for 24 hours or more to be reportedmissing, the Silver Alert makes it possible to report a seniorcitizen as soon as they’re lost.

In many cases, older citizens are more likely to go missing becauseof mental illnesses like dementia than because they were crimevictims. Therefore, having the ability to alert authorities and thepublic to be aware of the disappearance could lead to betterresolutions in those cases.

Of course, the Silver Alert System will not prevent disappearancesand will not lead to all missing senior adults being found. Buthaving a system would be a major step toward seeing the positiveresults and success that the Amber Alert System has produced fortheir younger counterparts and their families.