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Abstract

Computer programming is a highly in-demand skill, but most learn-to-code initiatives and research target some of the youngest members of society: children and college students. We present the first known study of older adults learning computer programming. Using an online survey with 504 respondents aged 60 to 85 who are from 52 different countries, we discovered that older adults were motivated to learn to keep their brains challenged as they aged, to make up for missed opportunities during youth, to connect with younger family members, and to improve job prospects. They reported frustrations including a perceived decline in cognitive abilities, lack of opportunities to interact with tutors and peers, and trouble dealing with constantly-changing software technologies. Based on these findings, we propose a learner-centered design of techniques and tools for motivating older adults to learn programming and discuss broader societal implications of a future where more older adults have access to computer programming – not merely computer literacy – as a skill set.

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