Although most tech companies these days focus on youth, the aging Baby Boomers population is a large and growing market. That’s why IDEO, the company who invented the first computer mouse, has hired Barbara Beskind, a 90 year old inventor, to help create new gadgets for the elderly.
One of Beskind’s designs is for eyeglasses that take photos of people when they introduce themselves. Then, when you see that person again, the glasses have a small speaker to tell you who it is. So whether your eyesight isn’t great, or you’re having memory trouble, these glasses will make it a lot easier to remember people’s names.
Another invention she’s working on is a personal air bag that helps prevent falls and could potentially save thousands of lives. The air bag senses when a user starts to fall and then deploys, stopping the fall. Currently, Beskind is trying to figure out the best way to power such a device.
Beskind has been designing since she was 8 years old and growing up in the depression. Her family didn’t have money for toys, so she just made her own with the parts she could find. When it was time for college, Beskind wanted to get an engineering degree so she could be an inventor. But sadly, women weren’t allowed into those programs at the time. So instead, she joined the Army, became an occupational therapist, retired after 44 years, came out of retirement to start her own private practice, and eventually retired again.
But one fateful night she saw a TV interview with IDEO founder David Kelley talking about how it was important to have a diverse staff. Beskind applied for a job at IDEO and got it.
Beskind says being a designer has greatly enhanced her life. “It makes aging more tolerable, more enjoyable… I enjoy the age I’m in. I think it’s one of the best chapters of my life.”