For all the people who say that they’ve been unable to get their startups off the ground because they’ve been unable to find a technical co-founder, it might just be possible to handle the tech by themselves.
An 82-year-old Japanese woman has learnt how to code and created a popular iOS app that now has over 50,000 downloads. Masako Wakamiya had wanted to create a mobile game that would appeal to senior citizens, but none of the app developers she contacted were interested in making it for her. Undeterred, she bought programming books and learnt Swift, Apple’s programming language, with the help of a tutor who taught her over Facebook and Skype. The game she created, Hinadan, now has 53,000 downloads and is rated a perfect 5 on the App store.
There wasn’t much in Wakamiya’s background that suggested that she’d end up becoming a programmer. In a bit of a coincidence, she was born in 1936, the same year the first rudimentary computer had been invented. At the age of 18, she’d begun working at a bank as a clerk, and stayed in the same job for 43 years. After retiring, she spent her time caring after her elderly mother. That was when she bought her first computer, and then graduated to a Microsoft PC, and then a Mac. She now has an iPhone on which she runs the app she’s built.
But even though she was getting on in years, she kept picking up new skills. At age 75, she learnt to play the piano, and also joined a computer club for seniors, where she learnt how to use a computer, and even started creating some Excel art. And finally at age 82, she decided to take up programming. Her app, Hinandan, is especially popular among older women, and involves getting players to arrange traditional Japanese dolls. After the game’s popularity, she’s considering releasing versions in English, Chinese and possibly French.
For Wakamiya, coding had started off as a hobby. “Seniors tend to be depressed as they age, because they lose … family members,” she said in a recent interview. “By teaching them to do new things, it gives them an excitement, a motivation — I really like that feeling and being able to share that.” But Wakamiya has discovered that she’s particularly good at her hobby, and one that’s widely thought to favour young people — the average ages at most tech companies hovers in the late twenties and early thirties, and tech workers in their forties can often find it hard to find new jobs.
But at 82, Wakamiya has shown that there’s really no upper limit to when one can pick up programming.“I didn’t expect such a huge response to my childish app,” Wakamiya recently said in an interview. She now wants to develop even more game apps.“I have many things I want to try,” she says.
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