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The Silver Crisis

The Silver Crisis

The Silver Crisis – if you’re thinking this crisis has to do with metal and money – wrong. Over the next 15 years, a real human crisis is headed our way – 78 million, or what is left of them, baby boomers, and a good number of older Generation X citizens, will be almost fully retired and heading into the sunset. On its own that may not seem like a huge issue, but consider that many of the caregivers for these people will either be senior citizens themselves or, and this is the worst case scenario, they have no children or relatives to care for them. In that case, who or what public agency will be there to help them? You guessed it, police. Many of the younger Baby Boomers and Gen Xers are sandwiched between caring for their own parents and their children.

In most states, there is some kind of public agency, in Texas it is the Adult Protective Services which is under the Department of Health and Human Services or some other state agency, that provides a safety net for these citizens. This service has a very limited role in “protecting” a citizen who has reached his or her 65th birthday and is a danger to themselves or others. Wanna bet that when the silver crisis hits the fan, it will be woefully understaffed and under motivated to deal with the influx of “clients?” For argument’s sake, let’s just say they are and those golden oldies will have a safety net to look after their best interests in APS, or similar agency, what about those older Americans who clearly are competent, in the eyes of the law, or who may be borderline, and their family or other caregiver has no money to have them declared incompetent? What then? Is the state going to sue the “client” to have them declared incompetent so that it can take care of them? Doubtful.

Police departments all over the USA, the world in fact, will have demands placed on them that will not only stretch their resources but challenge them to find “ways” to be able to help them or their caregivers. Imagine, if you will, the following scenario: A citizen calls the police department asking for help to keep their aging parent from driving. Seems the parent still drives, but clearly shouldn’t by virtue of the dents and dings the car. One problem, the parent still lives on his or her own, but clearly are showing signs of dementia or other physical limitations, but not yet incompetent, at least no labeled as such by a competent court. What do you do? Sue your own parent for conservatorship – maybe – assuming the citizen has the financial resources to do that. Have them assessed by a court to have their driving privileges revoked. Maybe, if an officer can articulate with sufficient facts why his or her driver’s license should be revoked. Bottom line, if you try and have APS intercede, good luck with getting a live human to assist you. Chances are, if your department has not already established a connection with an APS operative, you will not be getting much help from them.

Or, consider that the senior citizen lives in an assisted living community; however, they have become abusive or aggressive and he or she is asked to leave the community – polite for thrown out? What happens to them then? Are departments going to send officers to evict him or her…throw him or her into the streets?

The silver train is on the tracks.

Chief G. M. Cox, Ph.D.

Murphy PD, Texas


  1. tonyhallett says:

    We in Pittsburgh already feel this dynamic because of our aging, non-transient population. As with many of today’s first responder challenges (rampage shootings, terrorism, etc.) many burdens of an aging population is falling on all branches of public safety. For example, we see a steady increase in 911 calls for “lift assists” – older citizens who have literally “fallen and can’t get up.” Police officers will respond, but many insist that EMS be summoned for the “lift”. Since many fire departments roll on EMS calls, it’s not unusual for a police car, ambulance, and fire truck to all be sitting in front of a home because someone has fallen. Seldom does this result in a transport to a hospital.

    • gmcox2013 says:

      Thanks for the comment on the Silver Crisis. Has Pittsburg seen many of the “aging” issues associated with “functioning” senior citizens where families have run out of options for “control” of their family member, such as driving, or giving away their money or buying too much stuff on the shopping network? If you have, how are you approaching it? I am trying to develop a skill set within my patrol ranks that specializes in working with other safety net agencies, such as Adult Protective Services in Texas, to patient advocates, etc. Again, thanks for the post.

      Chief G. M. Cox, Ph.D.
      Murphy Police Department
      206 N. Murphy Road
      Murphy, Texas 75094
      (972) 468-4212

      “A musician must make music , an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be.” Abraham Maslow, Motivation and Personality [1954]

  2. Dom Bedolatti says:


    I’m a colleague of Tony’s, working as a dispatch supervisor at a 9-1-1 Center near Pittsburgh. With the median age of our county climbing by the day, we are beginning to see more of the “age-related” calls- lift assists, scams (online, in-person, mail) that elderly persons are not able to deal with. They are also increasingly becoming dependent on 9-1-1 and the police to help them deal with problems (real or imagined) that could be handled through assistance from various agencies (Protective Svcs, Agency on Aging, Mental Health Services, etc.). I believe that it’s important for officers to truly understand what these agencies can or cannot do for the elderly, and at what point they should become involved. Welfare checks on the elderly are becoming more frequent, as are complaints from neighbors about an elderly person’s current living conditions and behavior. The one thing that responders need to guard themselves against in dealing with the elderly is becoming jaded to what is going on with them, especially in repeat callers. Yes, sometimes it is a pain in the butt to send an officer to Mrs. Jones house every other day for whatever reason. The sad truth is that with some of these people, that phone line to 9-1-1 and that officer’s response is probably the only contact they may have with someone in the outside world. We don’t want to have an officer blow off this kind of call and have something happen to a person because they “stereotyped” the caller and figure “It’s the same B S call and I’ll get there when I can”. A proactive program is sorely needed…everywhere…for these people.

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