How We Age: Sociology Program Alum Elena Portacolone Looks at Older Adults Living Alone

Elena Portacolone UCSF

In July 1995, as Chicago sweltered in temperatures that soared to over 100°F, more than 500 people died – largely the isolated elderly, many of whom who couldn’t afford air conditioning and were often too afraid to leave doors or windows open in their crime-plagued neighborhoods. The disaster highlighted one of the key challenges confronting an aging America: How do we ensure the well-being of an increasing number of people living alone in older age?

That’s the question sociologist Elena Portacolone, assistant professor at the Institute for Health & Aging and Pepper Center Scholar at the Division of Geriatrics in the Department of Medicine at UCSF, hopes ultimately to answer. “I’m very passionate about the care of older adults, especially how to help them remain in the community,” she says.

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