The compounded precariousness of older adults living alone with cognitive impairment in the U.S.: A micro-meso-macro perspective

Seminar with Elena Portacolone.

Elena Portacolone is an Assistant Professor of Sociology in the Institute for Health and Aging at the University of California San Francisco (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.

Venue: Center for Health and Society (CSS), Øster Farimagsgade 5, Room 5.0.22 (building 5, ground floor, room 22) – Everybody is welcome!

Time: Thursday 15 September, 2016, 15:00-16:30.

Older adults living alone in the U.S. are prone to experience precariousness. The word “precariousness” evokes a sense of chronic insecurity. The precariousness of older Americans living alone 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 either too expensive, limited, or difficult to access. At the same time, they may also experience a decline in their economic and social resources, as well as physical abilities. A qualitative investigation of 47 older adults living alone based on the analysis of subjective (micro), institutional (meso) and ideological (macro) dynamics led to this finding. A recent in-depth longitudinal qualitative investigation of 20 older Americans living alone with cognitive impairment such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or mild cognitive impairment (often a precursor to AD), suggests that having a cognitive impairment often exacerbates the precariousness of living alone in older age in the US. Using a micro-meso-macro perspective, I will examine the factors that compound this precariousness, including distress about the impairment; hiding the impairment; stigma; managing the impairment alone; little follow-ups after the diagnosis; and lack of appropriate services. Recommendations for specific policies and programs alleviating this precariousness will conclude the presentation.