The screen legend, 90, says, "When a man feels helpless, it's terrible"

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated March 03, 2011 12:30 PM
Paul Morigi/WireImage

Former MGM leading man Mickey Rooney, at one time the biggest box-office name in the country, appeared before a new audience Wednesday: the United States Congress.

The 90-year-old – whose on-screen problems were always easily resolved when he played all-American boy Andy Hardy – told a Senate hearing of a real-life drama involving elder abuse, and he spoke from his personal case history, he said.

“I felt trapped, scared, used and frustrated,” testified Rooney, who also said he and his (ninth) wife Jan were made to go hungry, he had medicine withheld from him and that his Oscar was even sold off. “But above all, when a man feels helpless, it’s terrible,” said the screen legend.

According to a court case in Los Angeles, Rooney has accused his stepson, Chris Aber, of elder abuse, and has obtained a restraining order against him. Aber denies Rooney’s claims, as does Jan Rooney, say news reports.

Still, Rooney is shedding some much-needed light on a genuine problem. According to The Washington Post, Sen. Herb Kohl, (D-Wis.), who chairs the Special Senate Committee on Aging, considers the nation’s elderly particularly vulnerable given their fragile state and the fact that those abusing them rarely fall under scrutiny.

Furthermore, according to the American Psychological Association, an estimated 2.1 million older Americans annually become victims to physical, psychological, sexual, financial, or other forms of abuse and neglect.

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