This 82 Year-Old App Developer Is Proving You Are Never Too Old To Learn Something New

We live in a youth-obsessed world where everywhere we look, we are bombarded with messages about beauty, success, happiness and fulfillment are tied to a certain age range. This is especially true for women who are subconsciously told there is some unspoken “expiration date” on their worth the older they get. Anyone seen that infamous “Last F**kable Day” sketch from ‘Inside Amy Schumer’?

One Japanese woman is proving that age should never be a barrier to achieving great things, and that society should not discount what people are able to accomplish in the later stages of life. Masako Wakamiya is an 82 year-old badass who has been making headlines around the world for an app she developed.

The retired banker and self-ascribed “technology evangelist” is using digital technology and the internet to empower other seniors like her to stay connected with family and friends, and to avoid depression and isolation which can be common among the elderly. Masako, who likes to be called Ma-Chan, first discovered the power of the internet while she was looking after her own elderly mother and felt isolated herself.

She joined a website for seniors called Mellow Club which sparked something inside of her. The simple concept of seeing her name pop up on screen every time she logged in excited her and made her feel like she was part of a community, she told Buzzfeed in an interview. Pretty soon she learned how to create Excel art, and says this was how the internet “gave her wings”.

“Those wings took me to a wide world I never knew before I used a computer…I always liked making things, but for example with handicrafts, you can only give them to people you actually meet, right? But I wanted to give some joy to not only my friends, but also to people I had never met. It sounds so romantic,” she said.

But her exploration with the digital world didn’t end there. In fact, it only fully began at the start of 2017, when Ma-Chan began learning the Swift computer programming language. This allowed her to create her own app called Hinadan. So, just quickly recapping: she’s 82, only learned a computer programming language for the first time barely 6 months ago, and now is the proud owner and developer of an app.

The idea for the app came from the popular Japanese festival Hina Matsuri, known as the Doll Festival or Girls’ Festival. It celebrates the well-being of girls, and traditionally brings grandmothers together with the young girls in their families to decorate dolls. The app was created for other elderly women like Ma-Chan, who now have a way to learn some digital skills. It has been widely embraced by her target audience since launching.

“Most applications are for young people, and people of my generation find them boring. As we age, our eyesight gets worse, and we can’t move our fingers the way we’d like to. This game is designed so that even people with these problems can enjoy it,” she told Buzzfeed.

The iOS app is currently rated 5 stars in the App Store and recently earned her a spot at the prestigious annual Apple World Wide Developer’s Conference in San Jose, California. In fact, Ma-Chan was something of a celebrity at the Conference, as Apple CEO Tim Cook gave special mention to her being the oldest developer at the event. The media attention she has been getting since has enabled the octogenarian to become more than just a “tech evangelist”. She has become an inspiration to those who think you have to slow down as you get older.

I think my legacy could be to give hope to someone that it is possible to program, even at age 82. It seems that many people, who are a bit younger than I am, don’t think of old age as an enjoyable time. I am having the best time of my life!” she said.

And she certainly doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon. Along with her app, Ma-Chan has a personal blogsite where she shares tutorials on how to make art with Excel, and publishes posts about her world travels. She also likes to help other seniors learn how to use digital tools such as iPads and iPhones, to help them stay connected to the rest of their world and not feel isolated.

In 2014 she gave a TEDx Talk in Tokyo talking about the power of the internet to “give you wings”, and focused on how the Mellow Club was the gateway for her. If you are inspired by her story and need any more reminding why it is important to make the most of life and never stop learning something new, watch the talk below.

One Comment

  1. Masako Wakamiya is indeed a very talented person. The only thing I would say “Old is Gold”.

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