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ChatGPT: Guiding Japan’s 89-Year-Old App Developer

ByYasmeeta Oon

Jun 13, 2024

ChatGPT: Guiding Japan’s 89-Year-Old App Developer

TOKYO — At 89, Tomiji Suzuki is not your typical retiree. After a vibrant career at a trading house, Suzuki has embraced the digital age by learning to code and subsequently developing applications tailored for Japan’s growing elderly population. His journey into app development began in retirement, but his impact is now felt across the country as he addresses the unique needs of senior citizens through technology.

Suzuki’s transition from export manager to tech innovator began when he took a programming course in the early 2010s. His desire to create and contribute to society didn’t wane with retirement. Instead, it pivoted towards technology, leading him to develop 11 free iPhone apps, all designed to assist daily routines and improve the quality of life for the elderly.

His latest creation, the “Outing Prep Voice Slide Show,” aims to ensure that seniors remember essential items before leaving home. Items like wallets, hearing aids, and patient registration cards are displayed in a simple slideshow format, narrated by his granddaughter’s voice. This idea was sparked by a personal mishap when Suzuki forgot his dentures before boarding a bullet train, highlighting a common issue many seniors face.

“I was inspired by my own experiences and realized that my age could be an advantage in understanding what seniors need and expect from technology,” Suzuki told AFP.

App NameDescriptionRelease Year
Outing Prep Voice Slide ShowSlide show of essential items to remember with voice narration2024
Pee Count RecordTracks the frequency of restroom use2023
Voice Input AssistFacilitates sending emails via voice recognition2022
A-I-U-Be ExercisePromotes mouth muscle strength through vocal exercises2022

These apps cater to specific needs that arise with age, such as memory lapses and physical limitations.

Suzuki’s encounter with generative AI, particularly ChatGPT, has significantly enhanced his ability to develop useful applications. Describing AI as a “great teacher,” Suzuki has engaged with ChatGPT to fine-tune his programming skills, asking around 1,000 coding-related questions to perfect his app development. This interaction not only improved his technical skills but also provided a bridge to understanding complex programming nuances.

“The most popular of his applications, ‘Pee Count Record,’ which helps users track their bathroom visits, receives about 30 downloads each week, a testament to its utility and the lack of marketing efforts,” Suzuki explained. This app was inspired by his own post-operative experience when he struggled to recall the frequency of his restroom visits.

Suzuki is an active member of the Senior Programming Network (SPN), a national group that supports elderly individuals in learning and applying programming skills. Katsushiro Koizumi, the founder of SPN, emphasizes the unique bond between seniors and AI technology. “Seniors and AI have a good chemistry. It allows them to interact with technology through natural language, which is crucial as physical limitations might make traditional interactions with devices challenging,” Koizumi said.

He is urging SPN members to integrate advanced AI tools within their apps to make them more accessible for elderly users, who might find physical interactions with devices difficult.

Despite the high barriers to entry in tech, particularly for those of advanced age, Suzuki’s enthusiasm remains high. “Once you delve into this world, you will see that it’s a lot of fun,” he remarked.

  • User-friendly designs: Suzuki’s apps are designed with simplicity and accessibility in mind, ensuring they are easy for seniors to use.
  • Empathy-driven development: His age and experience provide him with unique insights into the practical needs of the elderly.
  • Innovative solutions: By integrating AI, Suzuki enhances user interaction, making technology more adaptable to the elderly’s capabilities.

As Japan faces a demographic shift with nearly a third of its population aged 65 and above, the innovations by developers like Suzuki are more crucial than ever. Not only do they offer practical solutions, but they also provide a sense of empowerment and inclusion for the elderly, demonstrating that age is but a number when it comes to learning and embracing new technologies.

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Featured Image courtesy of DALL-E by ChatGPT

Yasmeeta Oon

Just a girl trying to break into the world of journalism, constantly on the hunt for the next big story to share.

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