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82-Year-Old Japanese Coder Creates Apps for the Elderly

Masako Wakamiya, an 82-year-old Japanese woman, has shown that mobile phone app developers don't always fit the mold of Silicon Valley stereotypes.

Channel News Asia recently shared Wakamiya's story through reporting by AFP. The octogenarian began using computers in the 1990s after retiring from her work as a bank clerk.

She worked her way through operating systems before taking up Apple's Mac and iPhone programs in recent years. She repeatedly asked app developers to create more options for elderly phone users, but after making no headway she decided to do so herself.

She created Hinadan, one of Japan's first apps aimed at people over 60 years old. The game, which means "the doll staircase" in Japanese, requires players to put royal dolls in the correct order, testing brain functions like memorization and the ability to create complex arrangements, the news source shares.

The Japanese-language app has been downloaded 42,000 times, and Wakamiya was even invited to this year's Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, held in San Jose, California in June. She was the oldest app developer at the event.

Hinadan's popularity in Japan has led Wakamiya to plan for releases in English, Chinese and possibly French, AFP goes on, while she has even met with Tim Cook, Apple's CEO.

"He asked me what I had done to make sure that older people could use the app," she told the news site. "I explained that I'd thought about this in my programming - recognizing that older people lose their hearing and eyesight, and their fingers might not work so well."

Wakamiya is well outside the usual age range of app developers, AFP notes. The median age of a Facebook employee is 29, while the figure is 31 at Apple. However, Japan in particular has a need for programs aimed at older generations.

Over a quarter of the country's population is over 65, a percentage that is expected to hit 40% by mid-century.

Therefore the elderly coder plans to continue learning and developing apps. She told AFP that she wants to build apps which keep older people entertained while also sharing their culture and traditions with the young.

"Most old people have abandoned the idea of learning, but the fact that some are starting (again) is not only good for them but for the country's economy," she said. This also keep her healthy. "I am so busy every day that I have no time to look for diseases," Wakamiya added.

Hear about Wakamiya's life story in her TEDx talk below:

Video via YouTube user TEDx Talks.

[Photo via Straits Times]

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