Heroes

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.

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

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":

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True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.

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