|Alumni magazine too small to see|
The magazine staff consisted of college students, led by a post-grad teacher in her late 20s, and most of the other people on the Board of Advisers were under 40. They had no trouble seeing the small type and thought my suggestion was kind of lame, so the print stayed small allowing them to squeeze more of their precious prose onto the page.
These days, however, people are beginning to pay attention to older consumers. Companies are quietly overhauling their product lines to accommodate aging baby boomers.
One example is an investment firm where clients are offered coffee in a cup with a handle, rather than in a Styrofoam cup (easier to hold.) The firm uses lamps rather than overhead lights (less glare) and has turned off the piped-in music (background noise hampers hearing).
Many retail stores have better lighting and offer more seating. They post displays in larger print, and in bolder colors that are easier to see. Sometimes packaging is made simpler. Jars have indented sides to make them easier to hold. Tops are easier to open for arthritic hands. Other stores have installed carpeting so people won't slip on the floor. And shelves are lower so older women don't have to reach up so high.
The Kohler plumbing company is doing a land office business in bathroom grab bars, which they call a Belay shower handrail (suggesting the rugged outdoors rather than the threat of a broken hip).
|A stylish grab -- er, Belay handrail|
Last month the New York Times did a story on organizations that help businesses understand the needs of older people and design products that appeal to them. The key, according to researchers at the Age Lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is to design products with features that are useful to older consumers, without being too obvious about it. As one MIT professor said, "You can't build an old man's product, because a young man won't buy it and an old man won't buy it."
One example is toothpaste that promises whiter teeth and healthier gums. Another is the car with blind-spot detection. Both of these are useful for everyone, but especially appealing to older consumers.
Researchers from MIT, Stanford University and elsewhere are also brainstorming products designed to help seniors live at home as they get older -- to save money on institutional care, and also because that's what most people want. Scientists are devising technological solutions to promote wellness and independence, such as devices to alert a loved one if a person has fallen and can't get up; or wireless pillboxes to remind people to take their medications; or in-home sensors to monitor an elderly person's activities.
Now, if I could just get my college alumni magazine to use larger print -- or, I know, I can read it online where I can adjust the type size myself.