81-Year-Old Builds Successful Phone App

81-year-old, retired banker Masako Wakamiya just launched her first smartphone app. She noticed a lack of fun phone apps and games aimed at people her age.

“We easily lose games when playing against young people, since our finger movements can’t match their speed,” Wakamiya said.

She asked many people to create games for seniors, but since no one was interested in taking her up on her idea, she decided to do it herself.

Wakamiya said, “I wanted to create a fun app to get elderly people interested in smartphones. It took about half a year to develop.”

She only started using computers since she was 60; back then, it took her three months to set up her computer and get online, which speaks of the level of user-friendliness it lacked. It was around that time that she was caring for her elderly mother and found it difficult to maintain a social life.¬†After setting up her computer, she joined what’s known as a “silver club” to learn how to use the internet and connect with others online.

Her app, Hinadan, is an iOS game based on Japan’s traditional festival Hinamatsuri, or Doll’s Day, which is celebrated every March 3rd. During the festival, ornamental dolls representing the emperor and his entourage dressed in traditional clothing are displayed in a very particular arrangement; in Wakamiya’s app, users have to decorate the dolls, as well as position them correctly for the festival.

What’s more, she even wrote her own PC textbooks because she found the options available to her were boring. She said, “You don’t have to be a professional. If you have creativity, if you have a playful mind, you can create teaching materials.”

Wakamiya now blogs, and gives computer classes in Japanese. She thinks she may even build other apps after this one. “I have lots of ideas and want to create new apps, but my programing skills are poor,” she said. “I need more time to develop them.”