The tech industry is often criticized for pushing out anyone who isn’t young, but the design firm IDEO has a new staff member that defies the stereotype.
Barbara Beskind, 91, is working as a tech designer for IDEO, which is known for making iconic divides like Apple’s mouse. Every Thursday, Beskind walks and takes public transportation to get to IDEO's office in Palo Alto, California.
Beskind, who has poor eyesight due to macular degeneration, uses modified ski poles she bought at Costco to get around. Recently, she designed a modified walker called a “trekker,” which is being developed into a prototype.
She focuses on projects related to aging and tests her designs at her retirement home.
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Beskind, who works with people decades younger than her, told Today "they can't put themselves in the shoes of the elderly.’’ She added, “people who design for the elderly think they need jeweled pill boxes or pink canes. We need functional equipment.”
Outside of her talents as a designer, she’s a welcome presence at her company. "Everybody gives a hug,'' she said. "IDEO is really my second family, and they're very supportive. On Thursdays, I feel 30 years younger."
Beskind has been interested in engineering since she was 10 years old. Her experience growing up in the Great Depression pushed her to be innovative. "I wanted to make a hobby horse, and I made it out of old tires,'' she said. "I learned a lot about gravity because I fell off so many times.”
Bekind’s high school counselor told her engineering schools didn’t accept women, so she served in the U.S. Army as an occupational therapist for two years.
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IDEO is happy with their hire. "Our culture is telling us, aging equals decline,'' said IDEO associate partner Gretchen Addi. "And Barbara is very solidly standing there and saying, you know, 'I'm gonna call you on that.'''