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If you’re looking for luxury master-planned retirement communities, waterfront condos, and expensive golf resorts, don’t look in Iowa. Life here is simpler, focusing on family and tradition, with many small-town communities spread out among sprawling farmlands. Life in Iowa offers a charming lack of congestion and stress that you typically get with urban living—as well as thriving larger cities such as Iowa City, Cedar Falls, and Cedar Rapids.

Iowa’s climate isn’t the mildest in the states. Winters here can be harsh, and summers can be hot. But there are many options for those who love the outdoors. The Mississippi River runs through the state, giving you options for boating, fishing, and water sports. There are also plenty of beautiful state parks and opportunities for hiking, camping, hunting, and other outdoor activities.

Cost of living in Iowa is considerably lower than the national average. Retirement income is taxed here, but seniors aged 55 or over can exclude a portion of retirement income—except Social Security benefits—up to $12,000, depending on your filing status.

If you’re interested in senior living in Iowa, here are a few areas to consider.

Iowa City. Money Magazine named Iowa City one of the five best places in the country to retire in 2005, and it’s easy to see why. A mid-sized university town full of beautiful tree-lined neighborhoods, Iowa City is set amidst gently rolling farmland. Home to the renowned Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, the town has a reputation as a cultural center and place of origin for some of the country’s greatest writers. With several live theatres, continuous cultural and musical events, it’s an ideal place for Iowa senior living.

Cedar Falls

Home to the University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls offers the region’s best performance venue and home of the Waterloo / Cedar Falls Symphony.


Your options for senior living in Waterloo, Iowa, are definitely worth checking out. Waterloo is a smaller town on the banks of the beautiful Cedar River, and a Mecca for Midwestern artists. The nearby Amana Colonies arts community includes seven historic German villages including furniture craftspeople, wineries, bakeries, and a woolen mill.

Des Moines

Iowa’s state capital and largest city offers affordable properties, high-quality schools, and a booming economy—with quiet, tranquil neighborhoods ideal for retirement. Assisted senior living options in Des Moines are varied and serve the needs of a diverse group of seniors.


Ranked as the country’s second most livable small town, Ames is home to Iowa State University. It’s a small college town with the sophisticated lifestyle of a larger city, offering entertainment and cultural events without the congestion and hassle of a big city.

Cedar Rapids

Senior living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa features the beautiful Cedar River as well as numerous parks and open spaces throughout the city. The Cedar River Trail runs for over 12 miles on the banks of the river, providing plenty of opportunity for scenic biking, walking, and jogging. There’s also a flourishing artistic and cultural community—with the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, several theatres, and the Iowa Cultural Corridor Alliance.


Located on the banks of the Mississippi River, Davenport offers several annual music festivals, including the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival, the Mississippi Valley Fair, and the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival. For active seniors, the 7-mile Bix 7 footrace provides a fun physical challenge.

If you’re looking for a small town pace and high quality of your life for a low budget, Iowa is an excellent place to consider retiring. Check out our listing of Iowa senior living options, and find a retirement community that fits your lifestyle.