University of Vermont

Professor Emeritus Stephen Cutler Wins Fulbright to Estonia

Sociologist Stephen Cutler, the Bishop Robert F. Joyce Distinguished University Professor of Gerontology, has been awarded a Fulbright U.S. scholar grant, the fourth in his career. Next spring he will travel to the University of Tartu in Estonia, where he will teach “Aging and Social Change: Policy and Ethical Issues,” a powerfully relevant course as the Estonian population who are age 65 and older is projected to increase from 17 percent in 2010 to more than 30 percent in 2060.

The impact of such a dramatic shift will be profound, according to Cutler, including an increase in the number of familial generations -- with a corresponding increase in intergenerational caregiving, greater demands on the country’s economic resources, as well as increasing political influence by the elderly. “We know that older people vote more than younger people do,” Cutler says. “If you exclude those under 18, the voting-age population will be close to 40 percent. Issues that are salient to the elderly are going to be prominent. What is society going to be like for younger people?”

In the fall, Cutler will teach on this topic at the University of Bucharest, the location of two of his previous Fulbright awards (one award, to Malta, he declined due to illness). Romania, like much of Europe -- and countries throughout the world to a lesser degree -- faces an aging population as extreme as Estonia’s. Concerned by the lack of any systematic course work on aging there, Cutler has persuaded the university in Bucharest to develop a master’s degree to help address coming social policy issues. He hopes to achieve the same in Estonia. “I’ll consider that part of my broad Band-Aid when I go,” he says.

Meanwhile, Cutler is making the most of his own so-called retirement. “It’s been an extraordinarily rewarding teaching experience,” he says. “Part of the enjoyment and pleasure of a Fulbright is the excitement of living in a new environment. I fully expect to take advantage of getting to know people -- not just colleagues and students, but cab drivers and people in stores… and I hope to get to know some of the region, Latvia and Russia are so close.”