Mickey Rooney's legacy includes raising awareness of financial elder abuse

By Tobie StangerConsumer Reports

The legacy of Mickey Rooney, who died on April 6 in California at age 93, goes far beyond the silver screen. The prolific film star did a service for millions of elderly in this country by helping to publicize the scourge of financial elder abuse. Whether it's fraudulent sweepstakes phone calls, investments, grandparent scams, or the far more insidious deceptions by neighbors, friends, employees, and relatives, such exploitation is rampant and on the rise. According to the Elder Justice Coalition, an advocacy organization, financial abuse costs its victims $2.9 billion a year, and the direct medical costs associated with elder abuse now exceed $5 billion. Watch our video below on financial elder abuse.

In September 2011, Rooney's court-appointed conservator, Michael. R. Augustine, filed suit against the actor's stepson Christopher Aber, and the stepson's wife, Christina, alleging elder abuse and misappropriation of his likeness. The suit alleged that after Rooney let his stepson handle his personal and business affairs, the couple stole Rooney's money for their own use, kept him in the dark about his own finances, used threatening and abusive language, and refused him basic necessities like food and medicine. In October 2013, Rooney's conservator agreed to a $2.8-million stipulated judgment against the couple.

Continue Reading Below

In 2011, Rooney testified before a Senate Special Committee on Aging, detailing his treatment. "Over the course of time, my daily life became unbearable," he said. "I felt trapped, scared, used and frustrated. But above all, I felt helpless."

"Rooney's words are as relevant and compelling today as they were in 2011," Elder Justice Coalitional National Coordinator Bob Blancato said in a statement today. "Advocates of elder justice are grateful for Rooney's courage and hope that progress can continue to be made at the national level to fight the epidemic of elder abuse in America."

Read our investigative report on financial elder abuse to learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones.

—Tobie Stanger

Copyright © 2005-2014 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission. Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this site.