W Water Street n Decorah, Iowa. Editorial credit: Steve Heap / Shutterstock.com

7 Senior-Friendly Towns In Iowa

According to the consumer financial services company Bankrate, Iowa is the best state to retire in the United States. Although it may not look like California — or have the beaches of Florida — three things make it stand out: low crime, good healthcare options, and affordability. As of May 2024, for example, Iowa homes fetched a median listing price of just $315,000. USD. Plus, the Hawkeye State exempts Social Security benefits from taxation. Ready to take advantage of these enticing perks? Discover below seven Iowa towns that are best for seniors.


Customers line up for ice cream at the Whippy Dip, a regional favorite, in Decorah, Iowa.
Customers line up for ice cream at the Whippy Dip, a regional favorite, in Decorah, Iowa. Editorial credit: Akerri / Shutterstock.com.

Decorah is located in Iowa’s driftless area, an expanse of beautiful rolling hills, rugged bluffs, and lush valleys. A retiree here will be 40 minutes from Lansing, a Mississippi River town known for its historic charm and elegance. The highly rated Winneshiek Medical Center is right in town; the third-largest Critical Access Hospital in the state. A retiree will love the fact Decorah is home to a municipal airport, making the town score big on accessibility. The area around Decorah glows with natural beauty, and one will be spoilt for choice regarding outdoor fun and adventure options. There is the Ice Cave, for example, which contains one of the largest “ice caves” in the Midwest. Phelps Park, the town’s oldest, features a trail that stretches along the bluff side, providing tasty views of the Upper Iowa River. Other outdoor venues include Dunning's Spring Park, the site of a spectacular waterfall, and the nearby Lake Meyer, a 32-acre blue-space gem ideal for canoeing, kayaking, and boating. The sweetest part is that Decorah's median listing home price was just $264,300 in April 2024.

North Liberty

Holy Trinity Lutheran Church (ELCA) in North Liberty, Iowa.
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church (ELCA) in North Liberty, Iowa. Image credit: Farragutful via Wikimedia Commons.

North Liberty is a buzzy town of about 20,000 residents that was once on USA Today's list of America's 50 Best Cities to Live. According to data from Safewise, North Liberty is Iowa’s fourth-safest city. In effect, a retiree here should not worry about being mugged while strolling down the streets. In April 2024, the median listing home price in North Liberty was $345,900, an unbeatable price point, especially considering one will be just 20 minutes away from Cedar Rapids, Iowa’s second-largest city. Iowa City, which is even closer, is among the best college towns in America. It hosts the University of Iowa Hospital, a 2024 recipient of the America’s 100 Best Hospitals for Coronary Intervention Award. For those who want to get a gush of fresh air frequently, North Liberty provides access to several outdoor venues, including the Iowa River, Sugar Bottom Campground, and the one-of-a-kind Iowa Raptor Project, where one can mingle with various masters of the air, including bald eagles and falcons.


Lake McBride near Solon, Iowa.
The beautiful Lake McBride near Solon, Iowa, in fall. Image credit: Rich Herrmann via Flickr.com.

A small but peaceful and family-friendly town in eastern Iowa, Solon will fit retirees who desire close-knit communities where people treat each other as family members. Solon scores big on access to big-city amenities — and, like North Liberty — is conveniently close to both Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. A retiree can access a broad range of medical facilities in either direction — and does not need to make a 4-hour trip to see a doctor. For those who want to wake up to beautiful waterfront views, Solon provides access to Lake MacBride, which features a multi-use trail, a swimming beach, and a modern campground. Alternatively, there is the chance to tee away an afternoon at the Saddleback Ridge Golf Course, typically enveloped with heart-melting views in every direction. Then again, Lake View Ohv Pk, which features one of the most beautiful lakes in the Idaho Panhandle, is an excellent place to ride, whether one is a beginner or an expert. The median listing home price in Solon was $454,900 in May 2024.


A beautiful church in Guttenberg, Iowa.
A beautiful church in Guttenberg, Iowa. Image credit: Farragutful via Wikimedia Commons.

Expect delicious river views in a town that is close to Dubuque, Iowa's oldest city. Because it sits on the Mississippi River, empty nesters here will enjoy a rich menu of outdoor fun and adventure, especially those that involve boating, swimming, and kayaking. To enjoy nature at its most pristine and raw — and on a site that features a sparkling waterfall, a singing creek, and a picturesque trail — Big Springs checks every box. Moreover, an hour spent at the beautiful Guttenberg Marina can add a sparkle to the eyes and should be an anticipated routine. This town is also budget-friendly since homes fetch a median listing price of just $249,000. Concerning healthcare access, the highly ranked Guttenberg Municipal Hospital is right in town and provides 24-hour emergency services. Because it boasts a median age of 58, Guttenberg’s social scene is particularly unbeatable.


The 1936-built post office building in Waverly, Iowa
The 1936-built post office building in Waverly, Iowa. Image credit: Jimmy Emerson DVM via Flickr.com.

An avid golfer’s dream destination, Waverly hosts excellent golf courses, including Waverly Municipal Golf Course, an 18-hole marvel smack in the middle of town. There is also the Prairie Links Golf Course, which features spacious watered fairways and large elevated greens. If one wants to get lost in the pages of a captivating book, Waverly Public Library provides over 50,000 books and can be a fantastic place to keep the brain active and engaged. Between chapters, one can stroll through the landscaped butterfly gardens or sit and listen to the running water of the koi pond. The town’s downtown area spans the Cedar River and is designated as a Main Street Iowa District. Numerous restaurants and locally-owned shops line the stretch; hence, one will not need to make an out-of-town trip for essentials. If under the weather, the highly rated Waverly Health Center is in town and accepts Medicare, Medicaid, and other medical insurance. In May 2024, the median listing home price in Waverly was just $292,400. Get a house here on the cheap, and use the rest of the money for fun-filled trips and adventures.

Mount Vernon

An American Gothic Barn in Mount Vernon, Iowa
An American Gothic Barn in Mount Vernon, Iowa. Editorial credit: EWY Media / Shutterstock.com.

Mount Vernon is a dainty town of just about 4,500 residents nestled in Iowa’s Creative Corridor (ICC), considered one of the nation’s leading economic development regions. An empty nester will have access to dozens of arts organizations and several higher education programs, including the world-famous Iowa Writer’s Workshop, the graduate program in Creative Writing at the University of Iowa. The program has churned out a dozen Pulitzer Prize winners and several National Book Award winners, including John Irving, Jane Smiley, and T.C. Boyle. Whimsically decorated libraries line the town’s sidewalks, making it a near-perfect retirement venue for book lovers. With the old-fashioned Bijou Movie Theater in town, two frisbee golf courses, and a private liberal arts college founded before the Civil War years, there is little chance a retiree will scratch her head here wondering what to do. The town provides access to a galaxy of highly rated hospitals at Cedar Rapids and Iowa City — so that an empty nester should not worry about healthcare access. Mount Vernon also hosts Chalk the Walk, Iowa's largest Madonnari — or street painting festival. The median listing home price in Mount Vernon was $399,900 in May 2024.

Clear Lake

Waterfront walkway in Clear Lake, Iowa.
Waterfront walkway in Clear Lake, Iowa. Image credit: Dsmspence via Wikimedia Commons.

Clear Lake is a homely, family-friendly town tucked away in northern Iowa, about 30 miles south of the Minnesota border. This town sits right on the waters of Iowa’s third-largest lake, one of the most sought-after fishing venues in the Midwest. Depending on the season, Clear Lake is a fantastic boating, skiing, and swimming venue. An empty nester will have access to McIntosh Woods State Park, Clear Lake State Park, and City Beach Park, which has a lovely beach area for sunning, swimming, and other water sports. The iconic Surf Ballroom & Museum is also a defining feature of the town — and is where Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson played before their fatal 1959 plane crash. Moreover, Mason City is just 10 miles down the road and hosts Mercyone North Iowa Medical Center, a 2024 recipient of the Coronary Intervention Excellence Award. The median listing home price in Clear Lake is $341,500.

The Takeaway

Although Iowa gets a bad rap because it does not look like Switzerland, it is ranked the best state to retire in America. It is mostly safe, provides fantastic access to healthcare — and is incredibly pocket-friendly. So, an empty nester here will have cash in their wallet — even if they will not have the sugar-white beaches of Florida. Then again, it is not that Iowa does not have a speck of natural beauty. The northeast corner of the state is incredibly picturesque and moreover, landscapes that kiss the horizon have a dash of heart-warming romance.

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