With technology, the general convention is that old people are lacking or out of touch. Precepts like "She can’t change, she’s set already in her ways" and "You can’t teach an old dog new tricks" make many to presume that some pursuits are reserved exclusively for the young. This misconception also applies to programming.
Of course, the prevalence of this mentality is justifiable. Even as a relatively young person, it has not always been easy for me to evolve as quickly as the programming world did. By the time I graduated from school, a good portion of what I had learned in school was already outdated. I know that you’re probably asking "If a youngster like yourself had trouble keeping up, what hope is there for the older folks like me?"
If at any point in time you, a friend, colleague or someone you know has ever pondered his or her ability to learn programming because they feel they are "too old", I want to let you know that, with determination, an open mind and persistence, anyone can learn programming. The question you should instead ask yourself is ‘should I give it a shot?’
Here are three reasons why I think you should.
1. Developing Your Mental Acuity
I started coding in my late teens. For over a decade, I’ve lived through periods of substantial coding (ten hours per day sometimes) and periods of little or no coding. During this time, I noted something curious. Whenever I’m coding, my mind is at its best, but the more time I spend without coding, the less sharp my mind gets. Of course, this is no surprise.
Programming is an excellent blend of logic and creativity. Logic, because each computer program’s behavior is defined by a strict set of rules and instructions. Creativity, because these rules and instructions can be designed such that they produce an unlimited number of behaviors.
Programming is also distinct from all other creative pursuits because:
- It thrusts you into a synchronous process of analytical diagnoses and creative synthesis.
- It pushes you to create fresh and ingenious solutions which can then be expressed in a logical, step-by-step fashion.
- It restructures the manner in which you think, which then bleeds out into all areas of your life.
All these make programming ideal for the aging mind because as we age, we are prone to fall into the insipid modus operandi of everyday life. Apart from returning to school, there are very few activities that actually push us to think as sharply and smartly as programming does.
Even if you have never written working code before, the process of learning how to program alone will sharpen your mental capabilities. This alone is as good a reason as any to consider learning this skill.
2. Expanding Your Career Opportunities
Do you feel like you are pinned down in your current career? If yes, then programming can unlock many doors for you, especially if you already have some tech-related skills. After all, a majority of those who learn programming do so to pursue lucrative careers in tech.
Thinking that you are already too old to learn the skill or that no tech company would hire someone as old as you does not help and is generally unhealthy.
It is true that ageism is an impediment in today’s workforce but, at the same time, things are better than many people think. Some companies may want a younger workforce, but there are a good number of companies that still value knowledge and experience over youth.
Some of them believe, like I do, that people get better with age.
It is true that some places like Silicon Valley still have the belief that innovation is a skill exclusively possessed by the young. This explains why more students are encouraged to start companies. But another strategy, maybe an even better one, would be to empower and motivate the more experienced – parents of students, and who knows, maybe even grandpa and grandma.
Solving humanity’s most complex problems today demands that entrepreneurs see the bigger picture, and doing so requires:
- Industry experience
- People-management skills
- A grasp of different scientific and social disciplines
- Clear thinking
- Solid decision-making
All these skills and more are all necessary entrepreneurial skills, most of which only come with experience, which is why they tend to be possessed by older, more experienced workers. Programming skill, in contrast, can be acquired at any age, and even a little goes a long way when it comes to managing other programmers or a technical team.
3. Understanding New Technologies
Whether or not you plan to change careers, there are still a few practical benefits of programming which you should consider. Probably the most prominent among these is the fact that programming helps you connect with the dynamic world of technology.
I acknowledge the fact that this gears towards the notion that older folks are lacking when it comes to technology, which, of course, is not my intention. There are quite a good number of youngsters who are as ignorant about the newest tech as the average older folk, and maybe even more so. Nevertheless, the fact remains that learning to code will aid in your appreciation and understanding of technology in all its forms.
I am by no means saying that you need programming to operate, for example, an Android tablet. Learning programming, however, can make your understanding and operation of that tablet easier and better and, by comfortably operating tablets, laptops and smartphones, you are one step closer to improving your quality of life. After all, aren’t there a good number of helpful apps and tools for your mobile devices just sitting there and begging to be installed?
It’s Never Too Late to Start Coding
If I have succeeded in convincing you, then start by consulting one of these free (and almost free) programming books (some of the books below are free with a Kindle Unlimited Subscription):
Or check out one of our Intro to Programming courses.
Programming is a difficult yet immensely rewarding skill to acquire. Whether or not you wish to be a programmer, I implore you to still consider giving it a shot. After all, until you try, you will never know for sure how successful you would have been.