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Posted on Sun, Mar 27, 2011 : 5:25 a.m.

Ann Arbor woman endorses 'silver alert' legislation after death of elderly father

By Capital News Service

By MATT WALTERS Capital News Service

LANSING - An Ann Arbor woman whose elderly father died after walking away from a community center is among those pushing for a new law that would require law enforcement agencies to issue a public alert when a person 60 or older is reported missing and is believed to be incapable of returning home on his or her own.

Jennie Stinson, of Ann Arbor, has advocated for “Silver Alert” legislation since her father, Norris Lee, died last September.

She said that she supports the proposed bill because it could help other families avoid a similar tragedy.


Pending legislation would require Michigan law enforcement agencies to issue a public alert when a person 60 or older is reported missing and is believed to be incapable of returning home on his or her own.

© Yuri Arcurs |

“To have a positive outcome, the whole community needs to be on the lookout for a missing person, not just the person’s family and police. If this helps just one family not go through what we did, it’ll be worth it,” Stinson said.

Legislation has been introduced in both the Michigan House and Senate. Similar legislation is already in place in 27 states, including Indiana and Illinois.

The motivation behind the bill is to improve the safety of seniors throughout the state, said Katie Carey, press secretary for Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, the main sponsor of the Senate bill.

“This legislation would make sure immediate action is taken when a senior goes missing,” Carey said, adding that it would expedite the process of creating a missing person report in a way similar to Amber Alerts for missing children.

“It would create an alert that would be immediately given to television and radio stations in the event of a missing senior. This would help the community act more quickly to bring that person home safely,” Carey said.

She said the bill was drafted after legislators heard the story of Estelle Mozelle Pierce, who died after wandering away from her Southwest Detroit home in 2005.

In Jennie Stinson’s case, her 85-year-old father went missing after his wife dropped him off at the Birmingham Community Center last Sept. 3. His body was found two weeks later in a wooded area not far from the center, where he was last seen.

Stinson said the medical examiner believed he died the evening of his disappearance or early the next morning.

According to Stinson, her father had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2009.

“That day was like every other Friday since he had been diagnosed,” Stinson said.

She said that at the time, her father showed few signs of the disease, which made his disappearance impossible to predict.

“He was still in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, as far as we or his doctor could tell. He could even name the current Detroit Tigers’ line-up. The only thing he really had trouble with was time and day,” Stinson said.

Stinson said that her mother contacted Birmingham police after she went to pick him up and couldn’t find him. By that time, Lee hadn’t been seen for two hours . Stinson said that because of the two-hour time gap, a Silver Alert may not have saved her father’s life but said it would have helped in the search effort.

“We needed to talk to everyone we could but it was impossible to find everyone who may have seen him. Someone must have seen him but we had no way to get the word out for people to be aware of his disappearance,” Stinson said.

She said a Silver Alert may have also allowed her father’s body to be found sooner and avoided the need to search as far away as Detroit.

“A Silver Alert may not have been useful in finding my father alive but maybe someone would have seen him by the river sooner than two weeks later,” Stinson said.

Carrie Collins-Fadell, public policy director for the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Michigan in Southfield, said the Silver Alerts would help keep seniors safe, particularly those with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

According to Collins-Fadell, six out of every 10 people with dementia will wander away, sometimes with fatal consequences.

“This is a large amount of people, considering there are more than 230,000 individuals in Michigan who suffer from the disease,” Collins-Fadell said.

Collins-Fadell said that because Alzheimer’s affects only the mind, it can be difficult to tell if someone who has the disease needs help.

“The individual can look healthy as they are wandering on foot or in a car. People who come in contact with them might not even know they need help,” Collins-Fadell said.

She said that the proposed legislation would be beneficial to family caregivers who live with Alzheimer’s patients at their home, many of whom are unpaid.

“These caregivers represent a huge cost savings to the state Medicaid system. This legislation is one way to help them and make their jobs easier,” Collins-Fadell said.

The bill is pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Its co-sponsors include Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor. A similar bill is pending in the House Family, Children and Seniors Committee. Its sponsors include Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor.

© 2011, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.



Mon, Mar 28, 2011 : 6:05 a.m.

This is an absolutly urgent need not only in Michigan but in all States. My usband died of Alzheimer's and lucky for us he did not seem to need to wander but he had a Medi Alert bracelet that identified him as a person with Alzheimer's and telephone numbers how to let someone know where he was. In this particular case it certainly may have helped. And it is essential that this get passed.

Jake C

Sun, Mar 27, 2011 : 7:45 p.m.

Based on recent news stories, there are anywhere from 50,000-100,000 missing person cases reported each year in the United States. That's 5 cases every single day per state. How much would you be able to pay attention if 5 amber/bronze/silver/gold/platinum alerts came across your TV screen, radio, and computer every single day? Who decides which alerts are worthy of taking up our precious air-time? Once we established a missing/abducted child alert system, it seems natural to make an alert system for seniors with dementia. But how about children with developmental disorders? At-risk college kids? Depressed teenagers? We underestimate how alert quickly fatigue sets in. The US government has told us that we've been at an Elevated or High risk of terrorist attack since 9/11. How many times per day do you evaluate your surroundings for terrorist attacks? How soon would you stop paying attention to the serious cases when the afternoon news reports yet another runaway teen who will come home form their friend's house in 2 days, or 50-year old wife who should have been home from the grocery store 30 minutes ago, or an 80-year-old grandma who just decided to go for a nice walk to the park?

Long Time No See

Sun, Mar 27, 2011 : 4:17 p.m.

To those who are aghast at the insensitivity of the people who think this might not be a great idea, there is plenty of reason to believe that these types of alerts are not very helpful, and in fact may be harmful. &quot;Amber Alerts - for all their urgency and drama - actually accomplish little&quot; <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Maybe it excites people by making them feel like they're involved urgent crime-fighting while they sit on their couch watching TV, but these types of alerts may be &quot;more effective as theater than as a way to protect children&quot;. Is there any reason to believe that the same will not be true for &quot;silver alerts&quot;? People feel that they intuitively know that these sorts of alert systems *must* help. I mean, why wouldn't getting the word out to people be useful? The problem is: &quot;What Amber Alerts do create, its critics say, is a climate of fear around a tragic but extremely rare event, pumping up public anxiety. Griffin calls it &quot;crime control theater,&quot; and his critique of Amber Alerts fits into a larger complaint on the part of some criminologists about crime-fighting measures - often passed in the wake of horrific, highly publicized crimes - that originate from strong emotions rather than research into what actually works. Whether it's child sex-offender registries or &quot;three strikes&quot; criminal-sentencing rules, these policies, critics warn, can prove ineffective, sometimes costly, and even counterproductive, since they heighten public fears and distract from threats that are at once more common and more tractable.&quot; ( Not only is it debatable whether &quot;silver alerts&quot; are a good idea, it's possible that we will further weaken the usefulness of any type of alert by continually crying wolf. Accusing others of being insensitive is not useful. Analyzing the real effectiveness of measures taken to protect lives is useful, so that the most effective


Sun, Mar 27, 2011 : 7:53 p.m.

Apples and oranges. When an elderly person walks away, the target area is considerably smaller than when a child gets abducted and is taken away by car. Also, while kidnapped children are often returned safely, their kidnappers are generally taking care of them, at least somewhat. When elderly people walk away, they don't have someone looking out for them, and so time becomes a real survival issue. Otherwise, they risk problems from missing medication, exposure, falls, etc.


Sun, Mar 27, 2011 : 6:10 p.m.

The finding that Amber Alerts are less effective than one would hope argues that malicious people are adept at hiding their crimes and eluding detection. Silver Alerts look for someone who is confused and is not intending to hide themselves from anyone. It seems Silver Alerts would be more effective because of this.


Sun, Mar 27, 2011 : 3:45 p.m.

Washtenaw County has an alert system that sends texts and emails of urgent events for the community in which an individual is registered. I have learned about home invasions very quickly after they have happened, missing/endangered people, severe weather, coyotes attacking animals, and other very useful information. I read the text or email quickly and get on with my day, taking appropriate action if necessary. They concentrate on issues related to health and safety of people and their pets/livestock. Fortunately they don't do nonsense like the lottery! If an elderly person is wandering and I've read the text on my phone (NOT while driving), I will be looking as I travel through the neighborhood. This happened to my mother; she left on a walk, the dog didn't want to go, but my mother knew the route. Somehow she got turned around and was off route, and couldn't remember her address, only that it was near a church and school. She was missing for about 2 hours, and it was winter in PA. A kind woman was following her in her car after asking if she needed assistance when my sister, her caregiver, found her. My mother was having a &quot;good&quot; day. Those who deal with dementia sufferers know exactly what I mean. This could have ended very differently.


Sun, Mar 27, 2011 : 3:21 p.m.

&quot;Alert Fatigue&quot;? Sorry when someone is missing be it an infirm elderly person or a child I sit up and pay attention. As a person who, as my sign-on name says, out walking our three dogs 2-3 times a day when I see these types of alerts I keep an eye out esecially if they (the alerts) are nearby. As for the comment that a wandering elderly person will stand out how do you explain the ones who end up missing for days and unfortunatly end up dead and they were missing in highly populated areas?


Sun, Mar 27, 2011 : 2:51 p.m.

This is a perfectly reasonable proposal. If you're getting alert fatigue, you might be watching too much TV--and I watch a ton myself. If your problem is with non-emergency alerts, complain about that. But if you can't be bothered to take a few seconds of your time if it will possibly save someone's life, then maybe it would be better for you to keep watching TV and avoid society.

Macabre Sunset

Sun, Mar 27, 2011 : 3:13 p.m.

That was sweet. Very constructive. Certainly makes me stop and think that maybe I should consider the pro-silver-alert argument because its proponents are so kind and engaging. I don't see how that kind of alert could save anyone's life, emergency or not. You're watching television, you're not outside anywhere near the person. And it's not like they can tell you where to look - if they knew, the person would be found already. If I'm outside, and I see an elderly person wandering, looking lost, not dressed properly for the weather, I'm going to act. Don't exactly need television guidance for that one. In the meantime, there are hundreds of life-threatening emergencies every single day in Michigan. Each one is vitally important to some family somewhere.


Sun, Mar 27, 2011 : 1:50 p.m.

My Dear Evergreen, You have a brillant idea. I would suggest that you immediately contac Senator Whitman and ask her to attach your idea to the bill. Good job!

Macabre Sunset

Sun, Mar 27, 2011 : 1:46 p.m.

I'm not questioning the need to care for the elderly. I'm questioning the efficacy of the proposal. The practice of using local television stations as a bulletin board for all these alerts (weather, amber, silver, lottery, breaking news that isn't newsworthy or breaking, etc...) has long since reached a saturation point. I change the channel by the second or third piercing beep.

Angil Tarach-Ritchey

Sun, Mar 27, 2011 : 1:24 p.m.

The Silver Alert is absolutely necessary. No one would even think about &quot;Alert Fatigue&quot; if the missing person was their parent, or grandparent. I have been advocating for the Silver Alert for years. I wrote an article for a couple years ago <a href=""></a> Just picture yourself confused, lost, and walking aimlessly in the cold, with no coat, or even shoes, lonely and unable to know how to get warm, protect yourself, or get home. Would you want the community to recognize or find you because an alert was in place? Understand that it could be your family member, or you one day. We ALL need to advocate for the safety of some of our most vulnerable citizens. Alzheimer's and dementia doesn't discriminate. Someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer's every 70 seconds in the US. Those affected are our parents, neighbors, teachers, CEO's, athletes, doctors, authors, and homemakers who have raised a generation. None of us can guarantee our exclusion from this devastating disease. It just may be you, or me, that will have to count on others to advocate and care for us 1 day. Can't we advocate for those who need us now?


Sun, Mar 27, 2011 : 1:13 p.m.

Wow. To the first three posts: I pray neither you or your family members ever suffer from dementia. Both my husband and I lost a grandparent each due to complications from Alzheimer's Disease. Both grandparents wandered away during their illness. My grandfather died of complications from his exposure. As we age we become as we were when we were children, and need caring for (LOVING caring for!) and protection once again. I wish our society cared as much about our elderly as we do our children. Both are valuable to our lives... and WE will BE both at one point in our lives... including Evergreen, SonnyDog09 and Macabre S.


Sun, Mar 27, 2011 : 1:54 p.m.

Evergreen's posting is not insenative and the technology is already there to utilize GPS. We use GPS to find our telephones, get directions, and more. His idea is an easy solution to a potentially painful experience. I would trust GPS bracelets over an less proactive public.

Macabre Sunset

Sun, Mar 27, 2011 : 12:33 p.m.

I agree. A wandering elderly person is going to stand out if encountered, and won't be encountered if you're home watching television, switching over to a channel that isn't beeping and scrolling alerts at you. We are already well versed in the world of alert fatigue.


Sun, Mar 27, 2011 : 12:18 p.m.

"This legislation would make sure immediate action is taken when a senior goes missing," No. Adding yet another alert will just add to &quot;alert fatigue.&quot; We'll tune it out, like we tune out the rest of the noise. How many &quot;alerts&quot; do we really need?


Sun, Mar 27, 2011 : 11:43 a.m.

Isn't there some kind of wristband tether that could find them by GPS?