Supporters want alert system for missing seniors - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Supporters want alert system for missing seniors

Sgt. Kim Buffet Sgt. Kim Buffet
Chris Shirai Chris Shirai

By Paul Drewes - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - When a child goes missing, Amber Alerts immediately get important information out to members of the public, who can then be on the lookout.

But another group of island residents, some just as vulnerable, don't get the same attention. Right now, there is no statewide alert for elderly residents with medical conditions or problems but there is a national push to create a "Silver Alert" for seniors who have gone missing.

When 80-year-old Masayuki Kubo went missing years ago, friends, family and members of the public joined in the hunt for the missing man.

Days of searching stretched into weeks and countless tips poured into police.

"We had so many calls when we did have that missing person. He was seen here, seen there, we take so many calls and we respond to every one and we have to make sure it wasn't our missing person," said Sgt. Kim Buffet, with the Honolulu Police Department.

Searchers were called to action by news reports and pleas from the family.

When a senior goes missing, if there is a medical condition or a danger to that individual, information is relayed to the media. Then passed on to viewers but not necessarily immediately. And if you're not watching the evening news, you miss out on details that could save a life.

"The time after a senior wanders away is critical.  That first 24 hours is so important because if they are not found then, they could risk death," said Chris Shirai, with the Hawaii Alzheimer's Association.

But the Silver Alert works like an Amber Alert, giving out information right away to radio and television stations to broadcast immediately. Even highway signs are used to give drivers a heads up of a missing person.

Prayers and pleas were not enough to ever find Mr. Kubo, but to help located missing seniors sooner, a dozen states have put in place the Silver Alert system.

And there is legislation to make it a national program, just like the Amber Alert.

The Hawaii Alzheimer's Association anticipates this problem of seniors wandering off to get worse. Right now there are 28,000 islanders with Alzheimer's or dementia.

That number is expected to triple in the next 20 years.

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