You’ve Heard About Amber Alerts, But What About Silver Alerts?

A program tries to put the brakes on dementia sufferers who hit the road.

When an adult with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease goes missing in Wisconsin, the news often ends up in the hands of Kari Orn. She runs the Silver Alert program, the over-60 counterpart to the Amber Alert program, which marks its third anniversary in August.

Housed within the state Department of Justice, her office receives reports after they’ve filtered through local police and the Dane County 911 center. Once she approves an alert for someone with a permanent cognitive disability, the message goes out to a large number of cell phones in the state, email accounts, light-up highway signs, local media outlets and scrolling lottery terminal signs.

One reason for the urgency is because some 57 percent of all Silver Alerts involve men and women driving vehicles, posing a danger to others on the road. Interestingly, a large number are men (65 percent), and the average Silver Alert subject is found 60 or more miles from his or her home, according to Orn.

“They get on a straight path, and they just go until something stops them,” she says.

Alerts from August 2014-May 2017: 175

Recoveries that happened directly because of the alert: 20 percent

Average age: 78

Alerts involving couples: 3

Average distance traveled by Silver Alert subject: 60+ miles

Most distant state recovered in: South Dakota

Silver subjects found alive: 171

Silver subjects who died: 7

‘Silver Alert’ appears in the July 2017 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning July 3, or buy a copy at

Be the first to get every new issue. Subscribe.



Matt has written for Milwaukee Magazine since 2006, when he was a lowly intern. Since then, he’s held the posts of assistant news editor and, most recently, senior editor. He’s lived in South Carolina, Tennessee, Connecticut, Iowa, and Indiana but mostly in Wisconsin. He wants to do more fishing but has a hard time finding worms. For the magazine, Matt has written about city government, schools, religion, coffee roasters and Congress.