Elena Portacolone, PhD, MBA, MPH

ASST ADJ PROF-HCOMP

Overview

Dr. Portacolone is an Assistant Professor of Sociology in the Institute for Health and Aging at UCSF, a Pepper Center Scholar at the Division of Geriatric Medicine at UCSF, and a Butler-Williams Alumna at the National Institute on Aging. She is a also a visiting scholar at the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues and the Center for Ethnographic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

Dr. Portacolone completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Turin, Italy. After working in the corporate sector in the United Kingdom, she completed an MPH degree at School of Public Health at UC Berkeley, an MBA degree at the Haas Business at UC Berkeley, and a PhD in Sociology in the Department of Social and Behavioral Science at UCSF.

Dr. Portacolone’s ultimate goal is to establish an interdisciplinary research program focused on the health, well-being, and the genuine social integration of older adults living alone, with an emphasis on ethnic/racial minorities. Dr. Portacolone was recently awarded a K01 from the National Institute on Aging and a New Investigator Grant Award from the Alzheimer Association to better understand the needs of an ethnical/racial diverse sample of older Americans living alone with cognitive impairment. One aim of this investigation is to advance the area of health disparities in cognitive impairment, an area where knowledge is extremely limited.

An original contribution of Dr. Portacolone’s research was the introduction of the notion of “precariousness” into the sociology of aging. The word precariousness evokes an intrinsic sense of personal and structural insecurity. In the case of older Americans living alone, precariousness derives from their need to prove that they can “make” it alone, at a time in their life when they may need services that are too expensive, limited, or difficult to access. At the same time, they may experience a decline in their economic and social resources, as well as in their physical and cognitive abilities. At a cultural level, there is a current emphasis on encouraging elders to be “independent”, apparent in discourses on successful aging. This emphasis may actually serve as a deterrent among some older adults living alone in terms of seeking help, which in turn increases one’s subjective sense of precariousness. Another important trend in her research was a high prevalence of cognitive impairment, which was noted among 30% of participants and confirmed in the literature. Based on this observation, the focus of her current research is an evaluation of older adults living alone with cognitive impairment.

Interests

Honors and Awards

Graduate Dean’s Health Science Award, Graduate Division, UCSF, 2010
Anselm Strauss Fellowship, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, UCSF, 2010
Carroll Estes Fellowship, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, UCSF, 2010
Silver Jubilee Scholarship, American Association University Women, 2010
White Fellowship, UC Humanities Research Institute, 2009
Sigma Xi Scholarship, Sigma Xi , 2009
Soroptimist Fellowship, Soroptimist Association of Northern California, 2009
Virginia Olesen Fellowship, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, UCSF, 2009
Graduate Dean’s Health Science Award, Graduate Division, UCSF, 2008
Lynn Adamson Memorial Scholarship, Women Health Care Executives , 2007
Andrew Scholarship Fund, School of Nursing, UCSF, 2007
Sigma Xi Scholarship, Sigma Xi, 2007
Graduate Dean’s Health Science Award, Graduate Division, UCSF, 2007
Graduate Dean’s Health Science Award, Graduate Division, UCSF, 2006
LifeLong Medical Care Scholarship , LifeLong Medical Care, 2005
Graduate Dean’s Health Science Award, Graduate Division, UCSF, 2005
David Starkweather Fellowship in Health Services Management, Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley, 2003

Publications

Contribution to: World Health Organization and National Institute of Aging. 2004. "Directory of Research on Ageing in Africa: 1995-2003." Geneva. 2004.
Estes, Carroll and Elena Portacolone. 2009 . "Maggie Kuhn: Social Theorist of Radical Gerontology.". International Journal of Sociology & Social Policy. 29(1&2):15-25.
Portacolone, Elena. 2011. “The myth of independence for older Americans living alone in the Bay Area of San Francisco: A critical reflection.”. Ageing and Society. 31:803-828.
Klinenberg, E, Torres S, Portacolone E. 2012 . Aging Alone in America. New York: Council on Contemporary Families.
Phillipson, Chris, Carroll Estes, and Elena Portacolone. 2009 . "Health And Development: The Role Of International Organizations In Population Ageing." in Health and Development: The Role of International Organizations edited by A. Gatti and A.Boggio. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Reprinted in: Estes C, Chapman S, Dodd C, Hollister B, eds. Health Policy. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett; 2012.
Portacolone E . New initiatives needed to address social isolation in America’s solo dwellers. Aging Today. (July/Aug):2013.
Portacolone, Elena. 2013 . "Precariousness among older adults living alone in the United States.". Journal of Aging Studies. 27:166-174.
Portacolone, Elena, Clara Berridge, Julene Jonhson, and Silke Schicktanz. 2013 . "Time to reinvent the science of dementia: The need for care and social integration.". Journal of Aging and Mental Health.
Portacolone, Elena, and Jodi Halpern. 2014 . “Move or suffer”: Is age segregation the new norm for older Americans living alone?". Journal of Applied Gerontology.
Portacolone Elena. 2014 . Older Americans living alone: The influence of resources and intergenerational integration on inequality. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography.
Rubinstein, R. Portacolone E. 2014 . Living solo in later life. What does it take to elders older than 80 to remain at home, alone?. Aging Today. (Jan/Feb).
Portacolone E., Segal S.P., Mezzina R., Scheper-Hughes N., Okin R.L . A Tale of Two Cities - The Exploration of the Trieste Public Psychiatry Model in San Francisco. Culture Medicine Psychiatry.
Elena Portacolone
+1 510 830-9309
3333 Calif. St,Laurel Heights, Rm 340
UCSF Box 0646
San Francisco, CA 94118
United States