New Silver Alert program in Miami to help find missing seniors

Gov. Charlie Crist signed an executive order Wednesday establishing a program to help find missing senior citizens.

Modeled after the Amber Alert program for missing youngsters, the new Silver Alert program will send messages to news media outlets when a person over age 60 with mental impairments cannot be found. Similar programs are used in 10 states, including Georgia and North Carolina.

If the incident involves a vehicle, messages to help find the missing person will be flashed on highway signs.

''The plan that Florida has ensures a prompt and comprehensive response while still ensuring leverage and dignity,'' said Heather Smith, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. "We think it could save lives.''

Of Florida's 4.3 million residents over the age of 60, about 500,000 may suffer from Alzheimer's, the governor's office said. About 1,800 senior citizens -- not all with cognitive impairments -- were reported missing in 2007, according to FDLE.