July 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

“You know, I can live on the moon, I am a paraplegic, and I can live on the moon, it is just a question of will.” These are the words of a paraplegic activist recited by heart by Dave, a disabled man in his 60s who lives alone in North Beach, the Italian neighborhood of San Francisco. Dave and I meet in the local library, and Dave reminds me over and over again that everything is possible if there is a political will. In his words the struggles of the disabled merge with those faced by older adults living alone like him.

The bottom line is that young and old disabled, living alone or not, can remain in their homes if there is a political system equipped to allow them to do so, independently from their income. So let’s be very wary of articles popping up on the web with paternalistic titles sounding like “signs that tell you that mom an pop cannot live alone anymore.”

Personally, I want to use my energy to contribute to a political, economic and social system that will allow me to live wherever I want in the last decades of my life. Rather than on the cool moon, my wish is to remain in my community surrounded by persons I love, exactly as it is today.

Older Americans Living Alone: The Influence of Resources and Intergenerational Integration on Inequality

April 22, 2014 § Leave a comment

I am VERY pleased to announce that the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography just published my most comprehensive article on living alone and aging.

Its title is  “Older Americans Living Alone: The Influence of Resources and Intergenerational Integration on Inequality.” The abstract is below and the link to the full article is

This is important work as we need to raise awareness on the challenges of living alone in old age. We cannot create policies if we do not know what is the overall experience of living alone in old age, right? This is the value of in-depth qualitative methods. Ethnography rocks.

I also want to use this post to thank all the San Franciscans who helped me in this endeavor. GRAZIE GRAZIE GRAZIE!

I also deeply grateful to Corey Abramson and Chris Phillipson for their substantial comments on earlier drafts. I am also very grateful to Reiner Keller, Maryann Molinari, Frank Neuhaser, Robert Okin, Christine Trost and the two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments. I also want to thank Carroll Estes, Sharon Kaufman, Eric Klinenberg, and Nancy Scheper-Hughes for their input throughout the research project.

And this is the abstract:

The number of older adults living alone in Western societies has steadily increased. Despite this trend, little is known about the overall experience of this population. In this article, I examine the condition of living alone in old age in urban America by drawing upon two years of participant observation and ethnographic interviews with older Americans living alone, as well as with participant observation. Findings contribute to the literature on inequality, with particular attention to the theory of cumulative disadvantage over the life course. First I reveal the reasons that make living alone in old age a unique condition. Then I discuss four profiles of older adults living alone based on observed empirical patterns: the resourceful, the precarious, the segregated, and the gated elite. A comparison of these profiles suggests that intra-cohort inequalities stem from the combination of resources available and degree of intergenerational integration.

Link to the full article is

Living solo in later life: What does it take for elders older than 80 to remain at home, alone?

January 18, 2014 § Leave a comment

The article that I wrote with my mentor Robert L.Rubinstein has been published by Aging Today. A copy is available here: Aging Today

Thank you Bob for inviting me to write with you!

Thank you also to Tom Broom, the financial consultant who helped me with the section on long term care insurance.  Tom has all the answers on that complex and elusive topic and can be reached at 650-314-1600.


December 13, 2013 § Leave a comment

How are you doing? I am blessed. This was the standard  reply of Lionel Sandiford, one of the older San Franciscans living alone who helped me with my research. Since he signed a disclaimer, I can reveal his identity.

This morning I attended the memorial for Lionel at the Canon Kip Center of the Episcopal Community downtown San Francisco. Lionel suffered a a stroke after having ridden a bus with pneumonia from Florida because he wanted to die in San Francisco, in his community. He literally left the hospital and jumped on a Greyhound to arrive in San Francisco and then die. I cannot imagine what thoughts went on his mind during the long ride.

Lionel was an inspiration for me and many others. A great and elegant  singer, a fine carpenter, Lionel fought for the rights of other seniors like him. He told me how much he wanted to leave his hotel room in the Tenderloin to have a kitchen where he would invite all his friends. He unwrapped  the fancy china he wanted to use to enjoy the meals with his friends.

ImageHe did not manage to move though. Yet, he created a community of friends that replaced the family. His family does not even know that he died since his body has remained unclaimed. Canon Kip did claim his body  and organized a touching memorial where we all sang with full lungs “Oh when the saints, go marching in, oh when Lionel marches in..” It was deeply moving. Other African American men and James Chionsini and I reiterated the importance to use the effort of Lionel as a springboard for claiming the rights of low-income older adults that do not have the luxury of an apartment in a city with very little affordable housing.


Dear Lionel, your immense spirit and wonderful voice will always be with us.  We are blessed that we met you.

Article on him:

Too Good!

September 20, 2013 § 1 Comment

Yes, living alone can be heaven indeed, as the piece on “The 10 Best Things About Living Alone” indicates. Let’s indulge on the perks of flying solo and forget, at least for a few minutes, its challenges.  So, before you do move in with someone, read this!


Isolation, anyone?

June 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

Image A British social worker, Pam Stopforth, tried to document how it feels to age alone in isolation.  Locked  in an apartment, with special gloves, glasses, and other paraphernalia that mimic the effects of old age, she just spent time being there, and recording her emotions.

“How many ways can you say you feel emotional and weary??” she wrote on day 5. Her diaries would have been more telling if she had to also deal with little money, as well as understanding how to get benefits, purchase food and meds, deal with ageism, eviction, fear of nursing home – the whole enchilada. Still, a very good effort.

Check her diaries and videos here

Time to shift the focus on real estate and City Hall

May 31, 2013 § Leave a comment

SF  San Francisco is becoming a city for the very affluent – those who can afford astronomic rents ranging on $2,000 for one-bedroom. As a result, older solo dwellers paying less thanks to rent control are often the target of landlors who try to evict them in many ways. “I hope to die before my landlady dies” said James, a lanky Black veteran who indeed died a few months after I met him. James fought eviction, and won the battle. Yet he knew that once his aged landlady died he would have had to face yet another battle. The excellent article below shifts the attention from blaming high-paid Google or Twitter executives to the real estate industry which is driving the prices up, as well as politicians who allow this toxic dynamic to happen through their complacency. Time to change tune. I will keep you posted.

Click here for the article Keep the focus on real estate – Page 2 | SF Bay Guardian.


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