Barbara Beskind: Esteemed Inventor and Technical Engineer at 89 Years Old
By: Derek Hobson
Age is a number, not a characteristic.
Age is as arbitrary as time.
Arbitrary, superfluous, and completely subjective. How do we know this? Well, we could start with Einstein’s theory of Relativity and time dilation, but I’d rather ease you into this.
In my favorite article of 2014, What Happens When We All Live to be 100 (available freely on The Atlantic), Gregg Easterbrook interviews countless doctors and researchers who examine age. For starters, they assess how trivial age is when researchers like Ferrucci would ask physicians and researchers to guess the age of any anonymous patient:
“Guesses are off by as much as 20 years too high or low,” he says. “This is because medically, we do not know what ‘age’ is. The sole means to determine age is by asking for date of birth. That’s what a basic level this research still is at.”
When you consider that some people start balding in high school and some 60-year-olds have botox (or have been applying sunscreen for decades – either way), it’s hard to tell a person’s age.
And what does age matter? Past 25, you can rent a car and the next big age-related milestone is retirement and Medicare eligibility. So what does it matter?
Hint: It doesn’t.
91 Year Old Tech Designer in Silicon Valley
Just recently it was reported that 91-year-old Barbara Beskind achieved her lifelong dream of becoming a technical designer and inventor.
She explains how she had always wanted to be an engineer, but due to the times she grew up in, her father dissuaded her. He told her women are not accepted into engineering schools and she was forced to pursue other work. And she did by becoming an occupational therapist, an author, and painter where she experienced success.
Yet she still yearned to be an engineer and, at 89, she retooled her 9-page resume and sent snail mail to IDEO, one of the leading design firms in the Silicon Valley – yes, the Silicon Valley, where you find the cream of the crop for engineers and Stanford graduates. This part of particular importance because it’s not simply that Beskind got a job as an engineer, but she was hired by the elite!
Right now, Barbara Beskind is designing new products specifically aimed at retirees and seniors and she openly talks about the working environment as a second family to her. She’s thrilled and they’re thrilled to have her!
Advice to Other Seniors
Today wraps out the article by providing some motivational points from Beskind and these two seem most pertinent to weary seniors who need to feel inspired.
- Less is More
Beskind says she only has a phone in case of emergencies but otherwise doesn’t let electronics eat up her time because they prevent her from thinking – which, is true, considering how many people use phones and computers as a distraction.
- Never Let Age Define You
Age is not an identity, so don’t let it define you. Even if at 90 years young, you still don’t know what you want to do, it’s never too late to start. Beskind was far from unproductive before IDEO, but it’s safe to say that she’s happier now than ever before and she’s certainly filling a much-needed role.
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