Your Old Man’s Eyes

scrip labelThere was an amusing article in the New York Times business section, by Katie Hafner, about baby boomers and their fading vision. I say it was amusing because they enlarged the print of the first few paragraphs to something approaching 24 pt type, and I enjoyed reading the oversized font until it reverted to the regular, harder to read size.

The article talks about how people in their early 40s start to notice the onset of something called presbyopia or “old man’s eyes.” As a graphic designer, I have been dealing with this issue for quite some time. When I see a designer’s business card that has 7 pt type for the telephone and email address, I can just about guarantee you that he/she is a twenty-something. Give them some time, I always say to map magnifiedmyself, and they will be bitching about not being able to read the fine print.

Whether it’s menus in dark restaurants, the side effects of a prescription medicine or poorly contrasted cell phone displays, lots of boomers are having a tougher time seeing these days, and perhaps unlike their parents, they are not shy about complaining. The expectation is that with the power of numbers on the side of our cohort, we will be able to get some satisfaction. Cell phone manufacturers are working on improved contrast for their displays; Target has introduced large type on easier to read prescription bottles; computers and internet browsers offer a variety of font scalings; and some restaurants have introduced better lighting at the table without sacrificing the overall ambiance.big button phone

Then there’s large print books, which I have no problem with, while other boomers don’t want to be caught dead with one. Alternatively, you can listen to the book on CD or your iPod, so how much longer are we really going to worry about that issue. My own prediction is that speech recognition is going to grow more and more prevalent, so I can stop typing these articles and just speak my thoughts. Likewise, instead of reading my email, I will opt to have my computer read it to me. Maybe a talking restaurant menu is not so far off either.

So you can laugh about your parents’ telephone with its colorful jumbo numbers, but there might one of these phones in your future. Maybe if you’re good, your mother will let you use hers.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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BoomSpeak - For babyboomers - by babyboomers.