Are Older Americans Key to Revitalizing Small Towns?

Author Doug Griffiths says offering social activities like line dancing for older residents can help revitalize small towns. Photo Credit: Jeffrey Smith/Flickr

Eric Tegethoff
Public News Service

BOISE, Idaho – Rural Idaho communities that are looking to revitalize themselves should consider investing in one of the country’s greatest assets: older Americans.

That’s according to researcher and small-town consultant Doug Griffiths, who is also the author of “13 Ways to Kill Your Community.” Griffiths says it’s the perfect time make communities age-friendly, as a wave of Baby Boomers is set to retire.

He calls retirement-age Americans the “original community-builders” and says they have the wealth to sustain small towns.

“They’ve saved up their entire lives for a quality of life, so they’re going to go somewhere where they can get it, and if it’s your community, they spend money and they volunteer, and you can grow a great community based on meeting the needs of seniors,” he says.

Griffiths says making communities age-friendly can take many forms, such as investment in housing options for seniors or more accessible transportation. He’s also learned from personal experience with his parents that towns can become popular for social activities, from line dancing to volunteer opportunities.

Small, rural towns are often doomed when large industries leave. But Griffiths says that doesn’t have to be the case. By getting creative, they can save their towns. He believes community building is the “most important job on earth.”

“If we just focused on building strong communities, then the families that live in them could take care of themselves and take care of each other,” he adds. “And that is the foundation of building a great nation.”

Griffiths says older Americans possess knowledge, time, experience, and in some cases, wealth – critical building blocks for thriving communities.