FUJISAWA: When 82-year-old Masako Wakamiya first began working she still used an abacus for maths -- today she is one of the world's oldest
app developers, a trailblazer in making smartphones accessible for the elderly.
Frustrated by the lack of interest from the tech industry in engaging older people, she taught herself to code and set about doing it herself.
The over 60s, she insists, need to actively search out new skills to stay nimble.
"As you age, you lose many things: your husband, your job, your hair, your eyesight. The minuses are quite numerous. But when you learn something new, whether it be programming or the piano, it is a plus, it's motivating," she says.
World's 13 most-downloaded apps on iPhones, iPads
World's 13 most-downloaded apps on iPhones, iPads
A recent survey named WhatsApp as the most popular app among Android smartphone users in the country. The case seems no different for iPhone and iPad users. The Facebook-owned app is the most-downloaded app among Apple device users right now. The app was the most-downloaded free iPhone app in India during the week ending July 6, 2017. Wonder which were the other hottest apps across the world during the same week? Read on to find out...
India: WhatsApp Messenger
Facebook-owned multimedia messaging and voice-calling app WhatsApp continues to rule the App Store in India.
Snapchat-owned photo alteration and avatar creation suite that allows users to create custom emojis -- small cartoon images depicting a range of emotions and reactions. Bitmoji keyboard now integrates with Snapchat. Emoji-enhancing props are available from $0.99 USD.
United Kingdom: Rider
Take jumps, flips and loops in your motorcycling stride on a neon-tube course. Challenges, unlockable courses, leaderboards.
Australia: Melon - Meet new people (Social Networking)
Multimedia chat connecting users to potential friends. Certain functions require the use of consumable tokens, e.g., filtering by gender, reconnecting with previous contacts, accessing text chat.
China: Strike of Kings
Multiplayer battle arena game for teams of five, in the style of "League of Legends," which likewise has links to Tencent Games. On July 4, Tencent enabled a feature that limits under 18s' playing time to one or two hours per day. Published as "Strike of Kings" outside of China.
Germany: Wort Guru
Swipe a continuous line through a collection of letters to form the required word.
France: Snake VS Block
Lead a snaking line of balls through a course populated by numbered bricks that prevent undeveloped lines from progressing.
Snapchat-owned photo alteration and avatar creation suite Bitmoji is the most popular app in that allows users to create custom emojis -- small cartoon images depicting a range of emotions and reactions.
South Korea -- Free Style 2: Flying Dunk
Street basketball with dunks, blocks, shots and special moves. Unique costumes bring unique benefits.
Japan: Everybody's Golf (Games)
First big step onto mobile for popular PlayStation golfing series, typified by cute visuals, intuitive play, and depth for those that want it. The game has both singleplayer and multiplayer versions.
Singapore: Coin Master (Games)
Village building and battling game with virtual slot machine as conduit to earning in-game currency.
Malaysia: Grab (Travel)
Southeast Asian taxi service that offers rides in taxis, private cars with fixed fares, mopeds, as well as parcel delivery and carpool organizing is the most downloaded app in the country on Apple devices.
South Africa: Absa Banking app
Absa Banking app is the most popular app among Apple iPhone and iPad users in South Africa. The app shows account balances, transaction histories, account details, payments and transfers for customers of Absa (part of the Barclays Bank group).
"Once you've achieved your professional life, you should return to school. In the era of the internet, if you stop learning, it has consequences for your daily life," Wakamiya explains during an AFP interview at her home near Tokyo.
She became interested in computers in the 1990s when she retired from her job as a bank clerk. It took her months to set up her first system, beginning with BBS messaging, a precursor to the internet, before building her skills on a
PC, and then
's Mac and iPhones.
She asked software developers to come up with more for the elderly, but a repeated lack of response led her to take matters into her own hands.
Wakamiya learned the basics of coding and developed 'Hinadan' one of Japan's first dedicated app games for the over-60s -- she is now in such demand that this year Apple invited her to participate at their prestigious Worldwide Developers Conference, where she was the oldest app creator to take part.
'Hinadan' -- 'the doll staircase' -- was inspired by the Hina Matsuri, a doll festival which takes place every March, where ornamental dolls representing the emperor, his family and their guests are displayed in a specific arrangement.
In Wakamiya's app, users have to put them in the correct positions -- a task which is harder than it sounds, requiring memorisation of the complex arrangements.
The app, which is currently only available in Japanese, has been downloaded 42,000 times with hundreds of positive comments from users.
And while these figures are relatively small compared to Japan's big-hitting apps which are downloaded in their millions, 'Hinadan' has proved popular enough that Wakamiya plans to release English, Chinese and possibly French versions of the app before next year's festival.
Its success has propelled her on to the tech world stage, despite the industry's reputation for being notoriously ageist.
In Silicon Valley, workers in their 40s are considered old by some firms and according to media reports citing research firm Payscale, the median age for an employee at Facebook is 29 and at Apple is 31.
But international tech firms and start-ups are slowly waking up to the economic potential of providing for silver surfers, and Wakamiya has already met with Apple's chief executive Tim Cook.
Wakamiya recalls: "He asked me what I had done to make sure that older people could use the app. I explained that I'd thought about this in my programming -- recognising that older people lose their hearing and eyesight, and their fingers might not work so well."
"Mr Cook complimented me," she says proudly, adding that he had hailed her as a "source of inspiration".
Wakamiya concedes that she finds "writing lines of code is difficult" but has a voracious appetite to learn more.
"I want to really understand the fundamentals of programming, because at the moment I only learned the elements necessary for creating Hinadan," she explains.
More than a quarter of Japan's population is aged 65 and above, and this is projected to rise to 40 percent by 2055. The government is struggling to ensure its population remains active and healthy -- and so also see the dynamic octogenarian as an inspiration.
"I would like to see all Japanese elderly people have the same motivation," one official told AFP.
Wakamiya says her ultimate goal is to come up with "other apps that can entertain older people and help transmit to young people the culture and traditions we old people possess".
"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," said Wakamiya, who took up the piano at 75.
Hinting that her good health is down to an active mind and busy life, she adds: "I am so busy everyday that I have no time to look for diseases."
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