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Typography and the Aging Eye: Typeface Legibility for Older Viewers with Vision Problems

The population is rapidly aging and becoming a larger share of the marketplace. Thirteen percent of the population is currently over 65 years old. In 30 years that group will double to 66 million people. People change as they age. Sensory, cognitive and motor abilities decline. The built environment is not typically created with the needs of the aging population in mind. How does the choice of typeface in signage systems, for example, impact the older viewer who is experiencing vision problems typical to that age group? Are certain typefaces more suitable to the aging eye?

Loss of light

Human vision declines with advancing age. Although there are neural losses, the major decline is due to changes in the eye’s optics. The pupil shrinks, allowing less light to enter the eye. The pupil’s response to dim light also decreases with age and becomes virtually nil by age 80. The elderly have especially significant vision problems in low light environments. These pictures show how much aging changes the relative transmission of light through the optic media for viewers of ages 20, 60 and 75.

Human vision at age 20 (left), age 60 (middle) and age 75 (right).

Loss of focus

The difference between normal focus and blurred vision.

The most common age-related vision change happens to almost everyone, beginning between the ages of 40 and 50. The lens starts to lose elasticity, resulting in a decreased ability to focus vision, especially during reading. Loss of visual acuity can result in blurred vision, which may worsen with age, as the eye weakens. These pictures show the difference between normal focus and blurred vision. The amount of loss of focus differs from person to person, and can range from slight to severe.

Continue reading this article at: AIGA | Typography and the Aging Eye: Typeface Legibility for Older Viewers with Vision Problems.