With an elderly mother requiring care and mandatory retirement looming after 43 years as a banker, self-confessed “chatterbox” Masako Wakamiya wasn’t much looking forward to turning 60 and embracing her “silver life”.
So she taught herself how to use a computer – and has now, at the age of 81, just released her first iPhone app after six months studying programming.
In a speech at a TEDxTokyo conference filmed in 2014, when she was 79, she discusses how she got her first computer, explaining how the thought of being “housebound” as the caregiver for her 90-year-old mother spurred her to try something new.
“I’d been working at the bank throughout my career. As I got close to 60, which is the mandatory retirement age, I started to feel a little blue […]” she says in the clip, which you can watch in full below.
“One day, I picked up a magazine and it said, ‘If you have a computer, without stepping outside your house you can chat with people.’
“And I thought, ‘Wow, this is it!’ And I immediately – although it was expensive back then – did some impulsive shopping and bought my computer. This one simple shop changed the second part of my life.”
The days following the purchase were a “struggle” as Wakamiya says she was not a “tech-savvy person”, but she tried her best and managed to set up the computer on her own: “I was connected! Yes I did it! My face was covered in sweat and tears.”
After finding friends online, she became more and more involved in the digital world, establishing a “silver club” for the over-60s and recently releasing Hinadan, a game that rewards knowledge of the Hinamatsuri festival (also known as Girl’s Day) as users arrange traditional dolls on a display.
Speaking to mashable.com, Wakamiya said that she was taught her Apple's Swift programming language by a “young person” via Skype and Facebook Messenger, and that she was aiming her app at the older market.
“The reason for making this applications is that many smartphone apps are for young people and [there] are almost no apps that the elderly can enjoy.
“I [would] encourage [older people] to start having fun experiences using computers.”
The developer, who runs a blog and teaches people how to make art using Excel, is determined to show other older people that the internet isn’t just a young person’s game.
Speaking on the TED stage, she says: “All of you in the silver age, why don’t we enjoy the digital life? I got the wings, I am so active and energetic. You too can have a wonderful silver life.”
She ends her talk with a plea for “young folks” to encourage their older relatives to try the online world: “I have a request for the young folks out there. After you leave please tell my story to your mother, your father and your grandfather, your grandparents.”