October 20, 2021

How old is too old to learn code?

How old is too old to learn code?

Maybe it’s subjective filtering but everyone seems to be coding nowadays. You’ve got kids learning to code in school and the older folks celebrating their wins on Twitter and LinkedIn. There are learn-to-code books for babies, tweens, teens, adult learners, hobbyists, and tinkerers. There are games, learning guides, hundreds of cheap and accessible courses, in addition to YouTube videos. In short, there’s a ton of content out there to learn from.

But the main question is — how old is too old to learn code? Is it just for the young ones? Or can old folks, some possibly looking for a career change or upgrade, learn code too?

Assessing life for what it is

For many of us, we fall into career paths that made sense at the time they were chosen. However, over time, we may have fallen out of love with it or found it wholly unpractical, not living up to what we thought it’d be, or come to some internal epiphany.

Whatever the case, code, and acts of coding are where you want to go next. But you have an issue — everyone seems to be straight out of high school, knowing right off the bat how to do things you didn’t even know was possible.

You feel old, disconnected, and completely behind. But you know you need code, in some form, to kickstart your career in programming.

The issue with this narrative is that you are focusing wholly on the wrong thing. The focus shouldn’t be on age. Why? Because if you hate, dislike, feel like you’re not progressing, or making headway towards your passions and goals while treading your current path — then there is nothing wrong about working towards getting yourself on the right track.

If learning to code is the path you need to walk down, then you should just learn it without worrying if you’re too old.

Starting at 10 vs starting at 45

The issue that many adult learners of code are that they often compare themselves to those who are much younger and seemingly more advanced in programming knowledge.

However, as an older learner of code, you actually have a leg up against the 10-year-old. How?

For starters, you’ve probably got the industry and life skills to help you translate ideas into code. For example, you might have been working at a hamburger joint for the past few years — you know the ins and out of how things work, the processes, procedures, rostering, ordering, money handling, and whatever else you find yourself doing. You might not know everything, but you certainly know more than a 10-year-old.

This knowledge means that you can better articulate yourself, cross-pollinate what you know over to your code if the opportunity arises. Your ideas and understanding of concepts are better baked than someone much younger.

What exactly is ‘code’?

Code is essentially a bunch of ideas that are systematically arranged in a certain way to create an interface for users to interact with. The process of coding itself requires a certain level of introversion and self-driven learning.

There’s more to learning to code than just route learning concepts and regurgitating it back out for some arbitrary algorithm exam. Code is a process of translating ideas into something that is digitally concrete. As the ‘coder’, you are essentially the middleman between the person with the idea and the final output.

The more you dig into the process of coding, the more you’ll also start to realize that code is a tool — and that each programing language is just another version of the same tool. This is because, at the end of it all, you can achieve the same results via different programming languages.

It’s good to note that some languages and stacks are better suited in certain situations than others. The ability to recognize its strengths, weaknesses, accept them, and let them go as necessary is all part of the job. Becoming too emotionally attached to a particular language or stack because it’s your comfort zone is like trying to turn a hammer into a screwdriver.

Final thoughts

It doesn’t matter how old you are right now. There’s no such thing as being ‘too late’ or ‘too old’ to code. To be honest, most of us in the industry are in a constant state of learning something new. We’re all noobs and newbies at something.

Code is just the singular word to encapsulate and describe that thing that turns the intangible into something digitally tangible. It is a communication tool and programmers are tasked with the job of using it to communicate ideas.

When code is a prerequisite for a positive change in your life, it doesn’t matter at what age you decide to pick it up. There is no grand prize for who’s the youngest software developer.

Truth be told, as an older software developer, you might actually land a job easier than your younger counterpart. The young graduate might be ‘technically’ more experienced than you. But you’ve got years of field experience in the actual industry. This is because code is more a sub-category.

You can’t create a fintech app, healthcare monitoring interface, booking system, management systems, etc, if you don’t understand it. As an older learner of code, you have the benefit of an actual career behind you — it’s just a matter of how you advertise yourself, in addition to having an actual network of people.

There is no age limit on learning in general. So do what you want, pick up a programming language, have that career change, make that app you’ve always wanted to make, and whatever else you’re planning to use your newfound knowledge for.