‘Silver Alert’ for missing elderly reinforces stereotypes

Across the country, advocates are wary of how effective the system might be
2019-11-02 11:27am. By Victoria Walton

A program called Silver Alert Canada, similar to AMBER Alert for missing children, has been suggested as a tool for locating missing elderly people.

But across the country, some advocates are wary of how effective the system might be.

“People with dementia and Alzheimer’s and other forms of memory loss have a real problem in this area,” says Bill VanGorder, senior spokesperson of the Canadian Association of Retired People (CARP) Nova Scotia.

VanGorder tells NEWS 95.7’s The Todd Veinotte Show that he worries people may get tired of hearing Silver Alerts because of the frequency seniors go missing.

“This happens much more often than it should,” he explains. “And if the alert was going off as regularly as it might, people would probably stop paying attention to it.”

The advocate says there are already 564,000 seniors in Canada, which will increase to 937,000 within the next decade.

Specifically in Nova Scotia, VanGorder says we have one of the highest percentages of elderly in our population, second only to New Brunswick and Florida.

“There are more seniors than there are younger people. It’s a huge age group and growing all the time,” he says.

Although the issue is real, many think the proposed Silver Alert is not the right way to go about preventing wandering.

“We’re not sure that what they’re calling a Silver Alert is the answer, it’s a stereotype, calling people silver,” he adds.

The CARP spokesperson explains that unlike AMBER Alert, which was named after Amber Hagerman, who went missing in Texas in 1996, the Silver Alert is not doing justice to the cause.

“We certainly don’t like the idea of suggesting that if you’re silver-haired, as I am, then somehow I’m going to automatically be prone to wander,” VanGorder adds.

The advocate instead thinks that technology could be the solution to helping families of seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

“There are more and more devices now that are available to families that they can use, wearable devices,” VanGorder explains. “Watches with GPS in them and other mechanical forms like that are available, that’s a great way to make sure that you can find out where your loved one is.”

Other strategies that are taught by the Canadian Alzheimer’s Society can prevent people from wandering.

“What we think we need more of is education on ways to prevent wandering in the first place,” VanGorder adds. “Simple things like keeping doors locked.”

VanGorder says if you spot someone who looks like they are lost or wandering, you can contact police.

“They’re very good at following up. If you don’t know who the person is, if it’s not a neighbour or somebody you know, then police will respond in a very gentle manner.”

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