Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Silver Alert offers valuable tool when seniors are missing

We won't soon be seeing Grandpa's face or Great-Aunt Shirley's height and weight on a milk carton, but we now have something that's sadly familiar for folks of missing kids: the "Silver Alert." It's the elder version of the "Amber Alert" that is quickly dispatched by law enforcement agencies when a child goes missing.

The new program relays information about a loved one's physical description, make and model of car, and last known location. Highway bulletins light up, and radio and TV stations get the word out.

It was as a result of one disappearance this year that prompted the Silver Alert program's creation. In June, an 81-year-old Largo man was found 150 miles away, in the eastbound lane of Alligator Alley near Naples. As a result, state Reps. Tom Anderson, R-Dunedin, and Kurt Kelly, R-Ocala, introduced legislation that Gov. Charlie Crist signed on Oct. 8.

It is estimated that 95 percent of people who go missing are found within a quarter mile from their home or last location seen, according to the Alzheimer's Association. But this isn't a finder's service for those times when your husband has given you the slip and is down the street playing euchre with some cohorts.

It's a life-saver for folks 60 or older who are incapacitated by Alzheimer's or other dementia. Rarely it may be used for persons 18 to 59 if it is clear that the person has an "irreversible deterioration of intellectual faculties," according to program guidelines.

People should contact their local law enforcement agency when a qualified family member goes missing. If the criteria are met, they'll issue a Silver Alert, in turn notifying the Florida Department of Law Enforcement if the person is driving a vehicle. If you're aware of a Silver Alert and see someone on the road fitting the description, or the vehicle, call 911 or *FHP (347). Be prepared to note the person's whereabouts and, if possible, the vehicle tag, location and direction of travel.

The Silver Alert program is proving popular, which is one of those bad news, good news moments. In the two and a half months that it has been in effect, approximately 20 Silver Alerts have been issued, compared with only about a dozen Amber Alerts for all of 2008, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Fewer than a dozen states have a Silver Alert program, including North Carolina, Texas, Michigan and Colorado, but one Florida legislator hopes to take the system nationwide. U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, sponsored a bill, H.R. 5898, which passed the House in September. It would allocate $5-million in grant money in the next five years to set up the system nationwide. It's now in the Senate.

Bilirakis filed the bill in March, within weeks after an 86-year-old Largo woman drove away from her assisted living home in Largo. Her car was discovered after a week about 10 miles away in the water near Clearwater Beach. She had drowned.

And then two weeks ago:

Police have issued a statewide Silver Alert for an 83-year-old woman with early stages of Alzheimer's who left her Briny Breezes home Dec. 10 to buy a sandwich and failed to return. She is 5 feet 4, 130 pounds, has gray hair and blue eyes. She was wearing a pink sweater and jeans.

A day later, police in Boynton Beach near Briny Breezes received word that law enforcement officers in Broward County had located her at a gas station in the Fort Lauderdale area 30 miles south. Alive and well.

We know what you're thinking. Take the car keys away. But that's a story for another day.

Mimi Andelman can be reached at or (727) 893-8272.


The Silver Alert

Go to and search "Silver Alert."

on the web

The Silver Alert

Go to and search "Silver Alert."

Silver Alert offers valuable tool when seniors are missing 12/22/08 [Last modified: Monday, December 22, 2008 10:24am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Winner and loser of the week in Florida politics


     Winner of the week

    Peter Antonacci. Gov. Rick Scott tapped his go-to utility player to lead his Florida job recruiting agency, Enterprise Florida, having previously picked him for his general counsel, to lead the South Florida Water Management District and to serve as Palm Beach state …

  2. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 19: A peregrina spends the whole day under the weather, and part of the day under the table


    Day 19: El Burgo Ranero to Puente Villarente: 25.4 km, 7.5 hours (Total for Days 1-19 = 454 km (282 miles)

    This list pretty much sums up my day:

    Eat two bananas

    Walk 13.1 kilometers


    Walk 6.2 kilometers


    Eat half an apple

    Walk 6.1 kilometers

    Crash< …

  3. Storm routs Cleveland


    TAMPA — Alvin Ray Jackson intercepted two passes, returning one for a touchdown, and recovered two fumbles as the Storm routed Cleveland 57-27 Saturday night in its home regular-season finale at Amalie Arena.

  4. Miscue sends Rays to another stinging loss to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays gave away DJ Kitty onesies Saturday night. Then they gave away the game.

    Rays centerfielder Mallex Smith misses a drive hit by Adrian Beltre with two outs in the sixth, allowing the tying runs to score. Beltre puts Texas ahead 4-3 when he scores after two wild pitches.
  5. Rowdies shut out Charleston


    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rowdies know a thing or two about stalemates, with five of their past 10 games ending in a draw.

    Rowdies in the first half during the game between Tampa Bay Rowdies and the Charleston Battery at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Saturday, Jul 22, 2017.