While there’s much effort trying to prevent the “brain drain” as Iowa high school graduates move away from small towns, never to return, one expert says let them go and target a different audience. Kathie Starkweather, at the Center for Rural Affairs, says communities should instead work to attract Baby Boomers and senior citizens. She says many older folks are looking for exactly what Iowa’s small towns can offer.

“The basic quiet,” Starkweather says, “not having to be involved in the rat race but also being allowed to participate in the community.” Starkweather is the center’s director of rural opportunities and stewardship. She says small towns may have to be creative in offering services seniors and boomers want — things like access to health care, cultural activities and community gathering places like coffee shops.

Starkweather says those older people can bring new life to small towns. “All the storefronts in many of our towns aren’t going to be full, but recognizing the fact that some of those folks can fill some of those storefronts,” Starkweather says. “They may decide to start a small business because a lot of the people who are starting small businesses, by far, are people over 50.”

Starkweather says small towns can begin to attract seniors and boomers by having and updating their websites, detailing what their community has to offer. The Center for Rural Affairs is based in Lyons, Nebraska.