Meet The 82-Year-Old Stealing The Show At Apple's Developer Conference

Photo: Madeline Buxton.
The keynote address at Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference usually focuses on the new software and devices that will be rolling out in coming months. But at this year's event, there was a heartwarming turn of events.
Before announcing the much anticipated iOS updates and some of the sleek new products coming later this year, Apple CEO Tim Cook took a moment to shine the spotlight on two individuals: the youngest developer at this year's conference, 10-year-old Australian Yuma Soerianto, and the oldest, 82-year-old Masako Wakamiya, from Japan.
Whereas Soerianto, and many of the developers at the event started young, Wakamiya only learned to code five months ago. She taught herself the basics reading a book, then later hiring a teacher, and launched her first app in February.
When I sat down with Wakamiya during WWDC, she was wearing conference merch (a dark denim jacket with WWDC17 embroidered along one pocket and colorful Apple-themed pins) and miraculously, still smiling. Since her conference appearance, she's become the surprise celebrity of the event, which brought together 5,300 attendees from 75 countries.
"It's amazing, every day is amazing," she tells me, with the help of a translator, when I ask her what the experience has been like. "I never knew that a world like this existed."
Wakamiya's app, called Hinadan, is based on Hina Matsuri, also known as the Doll Festival or Girls' Festival, which is celebrates the well-being of girls. Wakamiya's Hinadan, a combination of the words hina, a type of doll, and dan, meaning tier, helps users learn how to create traditional doll displays for the festival.
The app has been widely embraced by elderly women, who enjoy playing it with their daughters, nieces, and grandchildren.
"They found an app they can actually relate to," Wakamiya says.
Even though she only recently learned to code, Wakamiya has always been curious about technology. She's spoken at a TED event in Tokyo about her website the Mellow Club, which helps connect seniors online. And she teaches elderly friends how to use iPads and other digital products.
"Seniors tend to be depressed as they age, because they lose their teeth, hair, and family members," Wakamiya tells me. "By teaching them how to do new things it gives them an excitement, a motivation. I really like that feeling and being able to share that."

More from Tech

R29 Original Series