At every age and stage of life, we rise to meet new challenges at home, work, and play. It is perhaps ironic, then, that we often question our aging selves – and are questioned – when it comes to our ability to learn new technical skills. Learning coding and programming is accessible at every age, and today the opportunities for lifelong learning abound; but can senior citizens do it?
Senior citizens can learn to code and represent a growing segment of the student population in online coding courses, bootcamps, and community colleges. Seniors learn to code to broaden their professional skills, begin second careers, maintain mental and social agility, and create new technologies.
In this article, we will touch on some of the challenges seniors may face engaging in technical education and where seniors can find training programs. Also, we will go over some criteria to help choose among the course and programming language options, and some of the many ways seniors can use their new coding skills.
Learning To Code Later in Life
Any new learning endeavor can feel exciting and daunting at once. Still, learning to code may pose certain challenges to older adults.
Is it too late to learn new technical skills? Will teachers and colleagues take me seriously? What needs might I have now that I didn’t have when I was younger?
Find and Delete the Elephant in the Room
There is no shortage of negative stereotypes about seniors’ (in)ability to learn new things or supposed lack of adeptness with new technologies. Even though we know these stereotypes are untrue and even harmful, they are so culturally prevalent that we may have internalized them, and that elephant lurking in the room can make us, and others, doubt our abilities.
Let’s start by meeting these outdated prejudices with truth: seniors are daily disproving these stereotypes by learning to code and developing new and successful technologies well into their 80s that impress tech giants, like Tim Cook.
And classmates do value older students’ life experiences; as one leading tech blogger noted, career-changing students in her coding bootcamp class brought “years of experience in non-technical fields, and along with that, realistic ideas for startups.” And now, let’s reprogram that elephant right out of the picture.
Plan for Success
Older learners are adept at learning but can differ from their younger counterparts in certain ways. Research has shown that, as we age, our brains may need more time to process new information; however, it also shows that we become more empathetic, innovative, and creative. Taking your specific needs into account will help you identify the best courses and best class structure to learn to code.
Consider, for example, possible physical and logistical needs, such as hearing or eyesight challenges, how long you can comfortably sit, and any adaptive technology you need for comfortable computer use, as well as whether you prefer more time to learn new concepts or need flexible course access to accommodate a busy schedule.
As a senior, the cost of a learning program also might factor into your decision. If so, there are good coding opportunities at every price point that can help you meet your coding goals while protecting your financial health.
Choosing a Coding Course
There are so many types of coding classes, from integrated programs to stand-alone modules, that choosing among them may seem overwhelming at first. By focusing on your motivation and goals, you can refine your search to identify the study options and coding languages that best fit your coding future.
The Best Coding Course Is the One That Helps You Meet Your Goals
If you’re still exploring whether learning to code is right for you, consider taking a free introductory course online, like these on Skillshare, Udemy, and Code Academy, or attending a local meet-up, where you can connect with others in the field and learn the professional lingo.
There are many short-term (2-to-6 month) intensive, private coding bootcamps to meet concrete goals and focused skill-building. If you are considering a private bootcamp, NerdWallet recommends doing some additional digging to verify that the training and job placement claims made by the bootcamp are supported.
Two websites that track the coding bootcamp industry are the non-profit Council on Integrity in Results Reporting and Course Report, which offers articles and tools to help you find the best bootcamp to match your needs.
Suppose you’re ready to learn to code but don’t need the intensity or cost of a short-term bootcamp. In that case, you can choose from a wide range of options, including self-study, free and intermediate-cost online courses, and classes at local universities and community colleges.
What Coding Language Should I Learn?
With over 500 coding languages, there is no shortage of options. Keri Savoca, Medium blogger and one of She Can Code’s top-rated female content creators, believes there is no one-size-fits-all choice. Before selecting which coding language to learn, she suggests focusing on what you want to make and what you want to do because different programming languages are designed for different ends.
If your focus is data science or large data management, you might want to start with a different set; and if you want to develop games, yet another.
To aid in your search, several online articles, such as Rasmussen College’s “9 Programming Careers for Coding Connoisseurs,” describe various programming careers and identify the most common coding languages used in each of them. Reading these and other resources and talking with programmers will help you identify the most commonly used languages and those best suited to your coding goals.
Putting Your New Skills To Work
How do seniors use their coding skills? The answer is as varied as your interests. If your goal is career-driven, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an eight percent increase in the number of web developer jobs available between 2019 and 2029, driven by the popularity of mobile devices and e-commerce. And both the New York Times and AARP have published articles about seniors forging new and rewarding careers by learning to code.
Seniors also use coding skills to create content, including for their own overlooked cohort. In her 80s, Masako Wakamiya learned to code to create an app game for the iPhone targeted to users over 60, a handbag with LED lights, and textile prints.
Other senior coders have used their new skills for personal endeavors and volunteer opportunities. Lifelong learning challenges also help seniors keep their minds and skills sharp, maintain social connections, and boost self-confidence.
You can learn to code in your senior years. The chances are high that, if you are reading this article, you already have an idea – or ten – to put new coding skills to use. Whether you want to boost or change careers, pursue a long-deferred dream, or create a website just for fun, do not hesitate. And do not limit your imagination – you may be the next senior coder to inspire Tim Cook.
- AARP.ORG: Code Your Way to Career Growth
- BMC Geriatrics: The detrimental impacts of negative age stereotypes on the episodic memory of older adults: does social participation moderate the effects?
- Code Fellows: Which Coding Language Should I Learn First?
- Course Report: The 54 Best Coding Bootcamps
- Course Report: 2016 Course Report Alumni Outcomes & Demographics Study
- CNN: The aging brain: Why getting older might just be awesome
- EdSurge: Meet the 83-Year-Old App Developer Who Says Edtech Should Better Support Seniors
- Entrepreneur: 12 Sites That Will Teach You Coding at a Low Cost, Even Free
- Forbes: The 8 Challenges of Aging
- Harvard Health: Back to school: Learning a new skill can slow cognitive aging
- Medium: What I Wish I Knew Before I Learned to Code
- Medium: Which Programming Language Should I Learn First?
- NCBI, When I’m 64: Opportunities Lost: The Impact of Stereotypes on Self and Others
- Nerdwallet: What is a Coding Bootcamp?
- New York Times: Some People Learn to Code in Their 60s, 70s or 80s
- Nikkei Asia: Meet the 84-year-old App Developer Who Inspired Tim Cook
- Online Course Report: 30 Best Online Courses For Senior Citizens
- Owlcation.com: Difficulties and Rewards of Teaching Seniors
- Rasmussen College: 9 Programming Careers for Coding Connoisseurs
- Seniors guide: it’s Never too Late to Learn to Computer Code
- She Can Code: Our Pick of Top Female Content Creators
- Stanford University: A Dozen Things You Need to Know About Adult Learning
- The Muse: 10 Free Classes to Learn to Code (if You Have Absolutely No Idea Where to Start)
- US Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook