If giving up on your goals and achievements you had set for your life was something you considered, even for one moment, meet Barbara Beskind, a 91 year old woman who was hired as a tech designer in Silicon Valley, something she had wanted to do for about 80 years. As a 10 year old during the Great Depression, Beskind relied on her creativity to entertain herself. “I wanted to make a hobby horse, and I made it out of old tires.
” From then on, she yearned to become an inventor professionally. However, those hopes were quickly crushed when she was told that only men could enroll in college engineering courses. So instead, she served in the U.S. Army as an occupational therapist.
Beskind also spent time writing books and painting, telling TODAY that she’s had five careers and five retirements, but her latest gig is the best yet. After reading about IDEO, a tech company behind the first mouse for Apple computers, the unstoppable senior worked on her resume for two months.
Then, she wrote a letter and sent it by “snail mail,” which eventually led to her job. Now, she takes public transportation to IDEO’s office every Thursday where she is welcomed with warm hugs from everyone in the office. There’s even a company-wide email that alerts the entire staff that she’s arrived.
“On Thursdays I feel 30 years younger,” she says. Rather than sitting at a desk, Beskind works from a couch on a project related to aging. Her coworkers, who are some six or seven decades younger than she is, have a lot to learn.
“Our culture is telling us, aging equals decline. And Barbara is very solidly standing there and saying, you know, ‘I’m gonna call you on that,”’ explained IDEO associate partner Gretchen Addi. Beskind is more than happy to offer her insights. “People who design for the elderly think they need jeweled pill boxes or pink canes. We need functional equipment,” she says.
Something else Beskind brings to the table is a unique testing lab for such products—her retirement home. Here, Beskind uses a pair of ski-poles-turned-walking-sticks which she modified herself, an enhanced reading glass so she can skim the morning paper and even a device that helps her best friend lift herself up from off the couch on her own.
“I’ve arrived. But it took me about 80 years,” she says, serving as living proof that there is no time limit on achieving your dreams.