They just can’t kill bifocals. No matter how hard the big lens companies may try, those darn multifocals with lines just won’t go away.  You’d think a 250-year-old technology, faced with high-tech competition like digitally surfaced progressive lenses, would just quietly fade into the mists of history. But bifocals stubbornly remain with us. In fact, some younger presbyopes even prefer them to PALs.

Take Paula, for example, who runs an excellent seafood restaurant in the town where I live. After becoming presbyopic about a year ago, she took her optometrist’s advice and bought a pair of progressives. Turns out she hated them. She tried for months to adapt, but just couldn’t do it. Tired of fighting the “swim” effect, Paula resigned herself to wearing flat-tops. She showed them to me the other night as she seated me for dinner. Paula isn’t exactly thrilled to be wearing bifocals, but it seems like they’re the best solution for her.

Despite the fact that many improvements have been made in designing, manufacturing and dispensing progressive lenses, they aren’t for everyone. For a certain ‘segment’ of the presbyopic population, bifocals are the best vision solution. (Sorry, I can’t resist a bad pun.)

Realizing this, some lens manufacturers continue to extend bifocals’ lease on life by offering lenses with new materials and new features. Younger Optics, for example, just released a flat-top in the new Transitions VI.

Even with the latest enhancements, many people who need bifocals really don’t particularly like wearing them. That’s the case with jazz great Dave Brubeck, who, a few years ago wrote a song called “Bifocal Blues.” At the time, I called his management company to inquire about the song and was told it was his comment on aging.

Like Brubeck, many people wear bifocals reluctantly before eventually coming to accept them as an inevitable part of the aging process. As long as people need bifocals, though, the lenses will live on. I suspect people will still be wearing them in another 250 years.

—Andrew Karp