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Elena Portacolone, PhD, MBA, MPH

Title(s)Assistant Professor, Institute for Health & Aging
SchoolSchool of Nursing
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    Collapse Biography 
    Collapse Education and Training
    Universita’ degli Studi di TorinoLaurea1995Political Sciences
    University of California, BerkeleyMaster2004Business Administration (MBA)
    University of California, BerkeleyMaster2004Public Health (MPH)
    University of California, San FranciscoPh.D.2011Sociology
    Collapse Awards and Honors
    National Institute on Aging2017Research Loan Repayment Program
    UCSF Clinical & Translational Science Institute2016KL2 First-year Scholar
    Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, UCSF2010Carroll Estes Fellowship
    Graduate Division, UCSF2010Graduate Dean’s Health Science Award
    Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, UCSF2010Anselm Strauss Fellowship
    American Association University Women2010Silver Jubilee Scholarship
    Sigma Xi 2009Sigma Xi Scholarship
    UC Humanities Research Institute2009White Fellowship
    Soroptimist Association of Northern California2009Soroptimist Fellowship
    Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, UCSF2009Virginia Olesen Fellowship
    Graduate Division, UCSF2008Graduate Dean’s Health Science Award
    School of Nursing, UCSF2007Andrew Scholarship Fund
    Graduate Division, UCSF2007Graduate Dean’s Health Science Award
    Sigma Xi2007Sigma Xi Scholarship
    Women Health Care Executives 2007Lynn Adamson Memorial Scholarship
    Graduate Division, UCSF2006Graduate Dean’s Health Science Award
    LifeLong Medical Care2005LifeLong Medical Care Scholarship
    Graduate Division, UCSF2005Graduate Dean’s Health Science Award
    Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley2003David Starkweather Fellowship in Health Services Management

    Collapse Overview 
    Collapse Overview
    Dr. Portacolone is an Assistant Professor of Sociology in the Institute for Health and Aging at UCSF and a Pepper Center Scholar at the Division of Geriatric Medicine at UCSF. Dr. Portacolone is also an alumna of the Butler-Williams program at the National Institute on Aging and of the Health Disparities Institute at the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities.

    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 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 a diverse sample of older adults living alone with cognitive impairment.

    Collapse Research 
    Collapse Research Activities and Funding
    Strategies to Increase Recruitment of Latino Americans in Dementia Research
    California Department of Public Health ADRA 18-10612Jun 28, 2019 - Jun 30, 2020
    Role: Principal Investigator
    Scalable Strategies to Recruit African Americans into Dementia Research
    Alzheimer's Association 2018-AARG-589788Dec 1, 2018 - Dec 31, 2021
    Role: Principal Investigator
    Access and use of long-term services and supports for older adults living alone with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias from four racial/ethnic groups
    NIH/NIA R56AG062165Sep 30, 2018 - Aug 31, 2019
    Role: Principal Investigator
    Identifying Scalable and Culturally Relevant Strategies for Recruitment of African Americans with Cognitive Impairment into Dementia Research
    National Institute on Aging R03 AG060354Sep 1, 2018 - Apr 30, 2021
    Role: Principal Investigator
    Living Alone in Older Age with Cognitive Impairment
    NIH/NIA K01AG049102Aug 15, 2015 - Apr 30, 2020
    Role: Principal Investigator

    Collapse ORNG Applications 
    Collapse In The News
    Collapse Featured Videos

    Collapse Bibliographic 
    Collapse Publications
    Publications listed below are automatically derived from MEDLINE/PubMed and other sources, which might result in incorrect or missing publications. Researchers can login to make corrections and additions, or contact us for help.
    List All   |   Timeline
    1. Portacolone E, Halpern J, Luxenberg J, Harrison KL, Covinsky KE. Ethical Issues Raised by the Introduction of Artificial Companions to Older Adults with Cognitive Impairment: A Call for Interdisciplinary Collaborations. J Alzheimers Dis. 2020 Mar 30. PMID: 32250295.
      View in: PubMed
    2. Portacolone E, Covinsky KE, Johnson JK, Rubinstein RL, Halpern J. Walking the Tightrope between Study Participant Autonomy and Researcher Integrity: The Case Study of a Research Participant with Alzheimer's Disease Pursuing Euthanasia in Switzerland. J Empir Res Hum Res Ethics. 2019 Dec; 14(5):483-486. PMID: 31179811.
      View in: PubMed
    3. Portacolone E, Rubinstein RL, Covinsky KE, Halpern J, Johnson JK. The Precarity of Older Adults Living Alone With Cognitive Impairment. Gerontologist. 2019 03 14; 59(2):271-280. PMID: 29373676.
      View in: PubMed
    4. Portacolone, E.A framework to identify precarity in data collection and analysis: Toward a global precarity index. In A. M. Grenier, C. Philippson, & R. A. Settersten (Eds.), Precarity and Ageing: Understanding Changing Forms of Risk and Vulnerability in Later Life. London: Polity Press (In Press). 2018.
    5. Portacolone E, Perissinotto C, Yeh JC, Greysen SR. "I Feel Trapped": The Tension Between Personal and Structural Factors of Social Isolation and the Desire for Social Integration Among Older Residents of a High-Crime Neighborhood. Gerontologist. 2018 Jan 18; 58(1):79-88. PMID: 28329804.
      View in: PubMed
    6. Portacolone E, Johnson JK, Covinsky KE, Halpern J, Rubinstein RL. The Effects and Meanings of Receiving a Diagnosis of Mild Cognitive Impairment or Alzheimer's Disease When One Lives Alone. J Alzheimers Dis. 2018; 61(4):1517-1529. PMID: 29376864.
      View in: PubMed
    7. Portacolone E. On Living Alone with Alzheimer's Disease. Care Wkly. 2018; 2018:1-4. PMID: 30637409.
      View in: PubMed
    8. Portacolone, E.On Living Alone with Alzheimer’s disease in the United States. Care Weekly. 2018.
    9. Portacolone E. Structural Factors of Elders' Isolation in a High-Crime Neighborhood: An In-Depth Perspective. Public Policy Aging Rep. 2018 Jan 13; 27(4):152-155. PMID: 29576722.
      View in: PubMed
    10. Gershon RR, Portacolone E, Nwankwo EM, Zhi Q, Qureshi KA, Raveis VH. Psychosocial Influences on Disaster Preparedness in San Francisco Recipients of Home Care. J Urban Health. 2017 Oct; 94(5):606-618. PMID: 28028677.
      View in: PubMed
    11. Abramson CM, Portacolone E. What is new with old? What old age teaches us about inequality and stratification. Sociol Compass. 2017 Mar; 11(3). PMID: 29861782.
      View in: PubMed
    12. Portacolone, E., Abramson, Corey M.What's new with old? What old age teaches us about inequality and stratification. Sociological Compass. 2017; 11(3):e12450.
    13. Portacolone E, Segal SP, Mezzina R, Scheper-Hughes N, Okin RL. A Tale of Two Cities: The Exploration of the Trieste Public Psychiatry Model in San Francisco. Cult Med Psychiatry. 2015 Dec; 39(4):680-97. PMID: 25998781.
      View in: PubMed
    14. Portacolone E, Halpern J. "Move or Suffer": Is Age-Segregation the New Norm for Older Americans Living Alone? J Appl Gerontol. 2016 08; 35(8):836-56. PMID: 25186312.
      View in: PubMed
    15. Portacolone, E.Older Americans living alone: The influence of resources and intergenerational integration on inequality. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography. 2014; 44(3):280-305.
    16. Portacolone E, Berridge C, K Johnson J, Schicktanz S. Time to reinvent the science of dementia: the need for care and social integration. Aging Ment Health. 2014; 18(3):269-75. PMID: 24180580.
      View in: PubMed
    17. Portacolone E. The notion of precariousness among older adults living alone in the U.S. J Aging Stud. 2013 Apr; 27(2):166-74. PMID: 23561282.
      View in: PubMed
    18. Portacolone, E., Phillipson, Chris, Estes, Carroll. (2009).Health And Development: The Role Of International Organizations In Population Aging. 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.
    19. Portacolone, E.“The myth of independence for older Americans living alone in the Bay Area of San Francisco: A critical reflection.”. Aging and Society. 2011; 31:803-828.
    20. Portacolone, E., Estes, Carroll."Maggie Kuhn: Social Theorist of Radical Gerontology.". International Journal of Sociology & Social Policy. 2009; 29(1&2):15-25.