VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – An increasingly familiar story has cropped up twice in the Lower Mainland this week: a senior with a cognitive disability wanders off, and police ask for help locating them.
“We just see this as a problem that’s not going away and if anything it’s growing, so if we don’t address it in some matter, it’s just going to get worse,” says Michael Coyle, a Coquitlam Search and Rescue volunteer and co-founder of BC Silver Alert.
Since 2014, BC Silver Alert has been tracking cases of missing seniors in the province while lobbying the government to implement a notification system, not unlike the Amber Alert system for cases of abducted children.
“We were tracking in 2019 seven elderly people with dementia or other cognitive issues [who] either went missing and weren’t ever found, or died. That many people in one year is shocking in a society that prides itself on caring for the elderly,” Coyle says.
BC Silver Alert has recently been incorporated as a society, which Coyle hopes will allow them to raise more money and attract more volunteers.
So far, however, the province has been hesitant to implement an alert system for missing seniors. Coyle suspects there are concerns about the cost of such a program, as well as a misunderstanding about what it would entail.
“We don’t envision the Silver Alert being like how an Amber Alert wakes everyone up in the middle of the night, and is province-wide. We want to target the alert at the community… to be something as simple as an email or a text message like you would get from anybody else.”
He adds without pressure from citizens and municipalities, it’s unlikely the government will move on this issue.
-With files from Ash Kelly
Editor’s Note: An 86-year-old woman reported missing in Burnaby has been found. This article has been updated to remove identifying information for privacy reasons.