In this fast-pace tech world, the reality is you’ll be left out if you don’t keep up. And one should not use age as an excuse, not from what we’ve seen of Masako Wakamiya, an 82-year-old app developer. In fact, she is one of the world’s oldest iPhone app developers, praised by Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook for being a “source of inspiration”. So much so that she was invited by Apple to participate in their prestigious Worldwide Developers Conference — where she was the oldest app creator — this year.
Masako trained herself to code after feeling frustrated by the lack of interest shown towards the elderly regarding technology. Learning new skills is a must to stay nimble and alert according to her.
“As you age, you lose many things — your husband, your job, your hair, your eyesight. The minuses are quite numerous. But when you learn something new, whether it be programming or the piano, it is a plus, it’s motivating. Once you’ve achieved your professional life, you should return to school. In the era of the internet, if you stop learning, it has consequences on your daily life.” ~ Masako Wakamiya, 82, Hinadan Developer
She used to be a bank clerk before becoming interested in computers in the 90s. From being computer illiterate, she taught herself and built up skills on PCs, Macs and iPhones. Realizing the need for more apps for the elderly, she asked software developers to come up with more but the lack of response led her to take matters into her own hands.
After learning the basics of coding, Wakamiya developed Hinadan — “the doll staircase” — one of Japan’s first dedicated app games for the over-60s. The app was inspired by the Hina Matsuri, a doll festival which takes place every March in Japan, where ornamental dolls representing the emperor, his family and their guests are displayed in a specific arrangement. In the app, players have to put them in the correct positions, requiring memorization of the complex arrangements — something that would help improve memory skills.
The app — currently only available in Japanese — has been downloaded over 40,000 times with positive reviews from users. Encouraged by this, Wakamiya has plans to release English, Chinese and possibly French versions of the app before next year’s festival. Her ultimate goal, however, is to come up with “other apps that can entertain older people and help transmit to young people the culture and traditions we old people possess”.
Citing that her good health is due to an active mind and busy lifestyle, we certainly wish her lots of success in her upcoming apps and good fortune for being a source of inspiration to everyone, young and old, everywhere.