In Japan, an elderly person who lives alone is referred to as a ‘dokkyo roujin.’ And in Japan nearly one in four people are over the age of 65.
For one special ‘dokkyo roujin’ named Masako Wakamiya, being elderly and living alone turned out to be beneficial for her for the last 23 years. Living alone provided no distractions as she broadened her horizons through educating herself in the world of computer technology.
Starting at age 60, Wakamiya focused on programming and while overcoming a steep learning curve not only in software development but also in the language barrier, she began over time to develop a software game for seniors.
She said it was tough in the beginning because everything was in English and so she had to overcome the language barrier first. Overtime however, she overcame this barrier and taught herself to use the computer and learn programming.
During the span of 23 years, she also introduced other ‘dokkyo roujin’ to the world of computers and technology by opening her home as a studio to teach them what she knew and how great it was.
For Wakamiya, who bought her first computer at age 60, teaching other ‘dokkyo roujin’ around her was a means of also opening up the world to them as it had for her which helps them build new connections and fight loneliness and isolation many seniors struggle with.
As time went by, Wakamiya began developing apps first with a game for seniors called, Hinadan which is centered around the annual Japanese celebration of Hinamatsuri or
Doll’s Day. She launched her game in 2017 at age 82!
Wakamiya uses Excel art to be creative in many areas and even creates designs she has turned into clothing and crafts.
She has toured the world spreading the word of using technology to bring new ways of creativity to all generations. Not only does she teach and encourage seniors, she now spreads the word to inspire young people to be creative and innovative and to find their own voice.
She has even been to the United Nations as a speaker to share her story. It all began when she shared her story at TEDxTokyo where she wondered if young people there, mostly men, would accept the opinions of an old female person like her. She said she was moved when they welcomed her warmly and showed her respect regardless of her age, nationality or sex.
Wakamiya says that her life began at 60 and at age 83 is still excited for what’s still to come! She says don’t deny the reality of aging – accept it – like the setting sun, enjoy the sunset!