When 82-year-old Masako Wakamiya first began working she still used an abacus for maths today she is one of the world’s oldest iPhone app developers. She is the trailblazer in making smartphones accessible for the elderly.
Frustrated by the lack of interest from the tech industry in engaging older people, she taught herself to code and set about doing it herself.
“As you age, you lose many things: your husband, your job, your hair, your eyesight. The minutes are quite numerous.
But when you learn something new, whether it be programming or the piano, it is a plus, it’s motivating,” she says.
“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 for your daily life,” Wakamiya explains.
She became interested in computers in the 1990s when she retired from her job as a bank clerk. It took her months to set up her first system, beginning with BBS messaging, a precursor to the internet, before building her skills on a Microsoft PC, and then Apple’s Mac and iPhones.
Wakamiya learned the basics of coding and developed ‘Hinadan’ one of Japan’s first dedicated app games for the over-60s. She is now in such demand that this year Apple invited her to participate at their prestigious Worldwide Developers Conference, where she was the oldest app creator to take part.
The app, which is currently only available in Japanese, has been downloaded 42,000 times with hundreds of positive comments from users.
And while these figures are relatively small compared to Japan’s big-hitting apps which are downloaded in their millions, Hinadan has proved popular enough that Wakamiya plans to release English, Chinese and possibly French versions of the app before next year’s festival.