Adults sometimes ask me if it's possible to pick up music later in life, and I always say "Yes! Well, it depends..." The truth is, our brains' ability to change and reorganize, called neuroplasticity, reduces as we get older, which is why it's much harder to learn something new as an adult. That being said, neuroplasticity never goes away completely. We can always learn new things. For composers, our most important learning happens passively, as our unconscious brains learn the conventions and workings of the music we listen to. If you've loved to listen to music all your life, and maybe messed around on an instrument a little, you actually may have a great foundation for composition.
Playing an instrument, on the other hand, is a different story. The complexities of the fine motor skills used in playing an instrument are so precise that as adults, lifelong musicians have structures in their brains that are so conspicuous that they are visible to the naked eye on a brain scan. Those kinds of motor skills take a lot of time and work to build, exponentially so for an adult. I encourage adult beginner piano students to focus on the the joy of the process rather than attach to outcomes, as adults usually do not have the practice time that building performance-worthy skill would require. Is it too late to become a concert pianist? Yes, it's probably too late. Is it too late to take up piano as an enjoyable hobby? Not at all. My own father began taking piano lessons as a beginner in his late forties, while he was still a full-time physician. He didn't have a lot of time to practice, but his teacher was patient and encouraging, and he still loves to play (even if he would never do so in public.)
You may have heard of Tony Cicoria, a orthopedic surgeon who was struck by lightning and became an acquired savant pianist. ("Wouldn't that be nice?" some people say.) But here's the thing that people probably don't realize about Tony Cicoria: The brain injury inflicted by the lightning didn't give him musical abilities, it just gave him an obsession with piano music. He woke up early every morning and practiced until he had to go to work, then came home and practiced until midnight. He became skilled because he compulsively spent all his free time practicing. Theoretically, anyone with the right motivation could do that without being struck by lightning (although personally, I would recommend a more moderate approach.)
The simple reality is, we all get from music education what we put into it. The rate of return decreases as we age, but it never drops off to nothing.
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