Mickey Rooney Warns of Elder Financial Abuse in Hearing

Actor Mickey Rooney
Actor Mickey Rooney. Photographer: Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Actor Mickey Rooney said Congress should pass legislation to protect elders from abuse in a hearing before the Senate Special Committee on Aging today.

“My money was stolen from me, by someone close,” said Rooney, 90, an entertainment legend whose credits include the “Andy Hardy” film series and movies such as “Night at the Museum.” “I was eventually and completely stripped of the ability to make even the most basic decisions in my own life.”

Rooney told other seniors who may be victims not to stay silent as he did for years. “You are not alone and you have nothing to be ashamed of,” he said.

Senator Herb Kohl, a Wisconsin Democrat and chairman of the aging committee, said he was reintroducing the “Elder Abuse Victims Act” today. The bill would establish an Office of Elder Justice within the Department of Justice and strengthen enforcement in cases of abuse. Kohl said he would also introduce another bill to address domestic abuse in later life.

Rooney received a temporary restraining order Feb. 14 in California Superior Court in Los Angeles against his stepson, Christopher Aber, who was allegedly harming Rooney physically and financially. Rooney is “extremely fearful of Chris, who has taken control of Mickey’s personal and financial affairs,” the court document said.

“Allegations that Mr. Aber threatens, intimidates, harasses, yells and screams at Mr. Rooney are false,” said Aber’s lawyer, John O’Meara, a partner at Bremer Whyte Brown & O’Meara LLP in Woodland Hills, California.

Abuse May Grow

A 2009 study estimated that 14 percent of non-institutionalized older adults had experienced some form of elder abuse in the past year, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office released today.

“As the American population ages, the extent of abuse will likely grow,” the GAO report said. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, persons age 65 or older will represent almost 20 percent of the population by 2030, up from 13 percent in 2008, the study said.

Stronger federal leadership may enhance the response to elder abuse, the GAO found. That’s because Adult Protective Services programs in states, which are generally responsible for investigating, resolving and preventing abuse, face “daunting challenges,” while federal efforts have been “scattered across agencies” and “had a limited impact,” the GAO found.

One out of five Americans age 65 or older have been conned by investment scammers, a total of more than 7.3 million people, according to a June 15 survey of 2,022 adults by the Investor Protection Trust, a Washington-based nonprofit that promotes shareholder education.

Investment Scammers

Forty percent of children who have parents age 65 and older said they are “very” or “somewhat” worried their parents’ ability to handle personal finances will deteriorate over time, the survey found.

To help protect seniors from fraud, securities regulators in 22 states are expanding a program to teach medical professionals how to spot victims of investment fraud.

The project will show health-care professionals how to determine when older patients are vulnerable to investment abuse and how to refer them to regulators, the Investor Protection Trust said in Nov. 17 conference call. The $712,000 initiative is funded by fines levied by participating states from financial firms found liable for misconduct, the group said.

Seniors with mild cognitive impairment, those who can perform daily functions but have trouble following medication schedules and managing finances, are a particular concern, the Investor Protection Trust said. About 22 percent, or about 5.4 million people, age 70 or older have mild cognitive impairment, according to a 2008 study by Duke University.

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