Wednesday, March 2, 2011

“I was eventually and completely stripped of the ability to make even the most basic decisions in my own life." Mickey Rooney.

Entertainment legend, Mickey Rooney, offers his personal story of abuse to Senators, urges victims to ‘have hope’ in fight to end cycle of abuse

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Herb Kohl, Chairman of the Special Committee on Aging, held a hearing on elder abuse, exploring the nationwide trends of abuse, neglect and financial exploitation of seniors with leading experts from across the country. Legendary performer and World War II veteran, Mickey Rooney, testified to the emotional and financial abuse that he has struggled through in recent years to a packed hearing room.

“I was financially exploited and denied access to information of any kind as to how my finances were managed…” Rooney said. “I was eventually and completely stripped of the ability to make even the most basic decisions in my own life.

“I persisted in sharing with others the abuse I have suffered, and am now taking steps to right all the wrongs that were committed against me.”

Kohl opened the hearing noting, “the physical, mental and financial abuse of our nation’s seniors is all too common.”

In 2009 in Kohl’s home state of Wisconsin, over 5,000 cases of suspected abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation were reported – an almost 9 percent increase over 2008.

“These crimes are being committed by people because their victims are often fragile and their chance of getting caught is slim,” Kohl said.

Kay Brown, Director of the Government Accountability Office’s Education, Workforce and Income Security program, presented a GAO report released at the hearing, detailing the existing estimates of elder abuse cases finally being reported to authorities.

“A 2009 study estimated that 14.1 percent of non-institutionalized older adults nationwide had experienced some form of elder abuse in the past year,” Brown said. “In all likelihood, this underestimated the full extent of elder abuse, however, because older adults who are highly cognitively impaired may be underrepresented in this study.”

Mark Lachs, MD, MPH, Professor of Medicine and Co-Chief of the Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology at Weill Medical College, unveiled a statewide study of elder abuse in New York recently completed by a collaborative team from Cornell University, the New York City Department for the Aging, and Lifespan of Greater Rochester.

“Based on our research it would appear that for every elder abuse victim that makes it into an official service or reporting system, another 23 to 24 go undetected,” Lachs said.

Kohl urged Committee members in attendance to help pass legislation to improve federal, state and local agency cooperation in fighting elder abuse.

He noted that later that day he would reintroduce his “Elder Abuse Victims Act,” a measure that is strongly endorsed by the Elder Justice Coalition. The bill establishes an Office of Elder Justice within the Department of Justice and strengthens the coordinated law enforcement response to cases of elder abuse. Kohl will also introduce the “End Abuse in Later Life Act of 2011,” which addresses domestic abuse in later life and is designed to be included as part of the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization later this year.

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A webcast of the hearing will be available on the committee webpage within 24 hours:

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