Barbara was hired at a top-notch design firm at 91. Here are 5 amazing things she's done so far.

The wisdom of our elders is no doubt America's most untapped resource. But that is changing. The folks at "The Today Show" and SeniorPlanet looked into just how amazing this change can be.

Minds like Barbara Beskind's are America's most underused human resource.


She's a top-notch designer at an internationally known design firm in Silicon Valley. And she's 91.

She holds court every Thursday at IDEO, a design and innovation consulting firm in San Francisco, as an ad-hoc consultant.


There, she gloriously helps designers invent better, more functional products for the elderly. She meets with a team of designers, some five or six decades her junior!

IDEO sends out an email to let everyone know when Barbara is in the office. The designers she works with love her.

People like Barbara have seen the invention of nuclear power, the rise of the automobile, the death of the streetcar, the invention of TV!

Their experience is, as of now, untapped. Unhired. Un-asked-interesting-questions.

Their wisdom, their brains, and their spirit are one of our nation's greatest untapped resources.

"I've retired five times, but it's like a vaccination that doesn't take."
— Barbara Beskin, my hero

How did she get there?

Barbara wanted to be an inventor and engineer her whole life. But when she asked her college counselor about pursuing it, she was told that it wasn't an option for her because engineering schools at the time didn't accept women. (!)

So she joined the Army, became an occupational therapist, wrote some books. ... Fast-forward to decades later, when she sent a nine-page letter to IDEO asking for a job. She got the job.

Here are some of the things she's already come up with:

#1. A unique brace that helps her BFF Hedy get up off the couch

Note to self: Become an inventor or befriend an inventor. They're so helpful!

#2. A magnifying glass for reading


She has macular degeneration. So she's just solving for it ... with inventions!

# 3. Modified walking poles

These are what I want for my grandma. She hates her walker; it makes her feel uncool. Already this little old lady inventor has changed the way I think about design.

#4. A revolutionary new walker

Much like her walking poles, Barbara is working on a walker that helps keep the person using it in a more vertical position.

#5. Prefab backyard living quarters for the elderly to live in an existing home with family

All those chill times you spent with grandma in your backyard? Well, Barbara's inventing new ways for grandma to live there! And ideas to make it better — like a chemical toilet and an electricity hookup that draws power from the main house. She gets it!

And that's just the beginning! She's 91 and she's JUST GETTING STARTED.

"You have to think outside of the box. You have to be more than yourself. The world is more important than you are."
— Barbara Beskind, aka the coolest

Is it just me, or should more companies get out of their stereotypes and into some untapped wisdom?

IDEO is famous for being cutting-edge, but that doesn't mean they should be the only company that benefits from elderly people's DECADES of experience in the world.

The brains, the experience, and the sheer exciting fact that these folks are ALIVE ... that is our natural resource. We should respect it.

I'm gonna go call my grandma now! I need to tell her about some walking poles.

While I do that, listen to more of Barbara's story from "The Today Show":

Heroes

Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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