The state of Montana is in the western region of the United States and is bordered by three Canadian provinces (British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan) to the north, North Dakota and South Dakota to the east, Wyoming to the south, and Idaho to the west and southwest. Although not official, the state’s nickname is “Big Sky Country” and “The Treasure State.” Montana is a state that is often associated with the outdoors and it is home to Glacier National Park, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, and part of Yellowstone National Park. There are also more than 100 named mountain ranges in the western half of Montana and between the mountains are river valleys such as the “Big Hole Valley,” “Gallatin Valley,” “Bitterroot Valley” and “Flathead Valley.” 60% of the state is prairie, part of the northern Great Plains. The capital of Montana is Helena, but the city of Billings is the only city in the state with over 100,000 people and is the largest city in the state. Missoula and Great Falls are the other two largest cities with over 50,000 residents each. The other “large” cities in Montana are Bozeman, Butte, Helena, Kalispell, and Havre. With a population of only 1.04 million people, Montana is the 44th most populated state in the nation with a population density of 7.09 people per square mile, ranking 48th in America. Montana has an area of 147,040 square miles, making it the 4th largest state in the nation – behind Alaska, Texas, and California.
Montana has the 6th highest percentage of senior citizens in the country, with approximately 14.8% of Montanans age 65 or older. However, is this rural state full of outdoor activities a wise option for seniors who are looking to live in Montana or to make a move during their older years?
Costs of Assisted Living in Montana
The average cost of care in an Assisted Living facility in America is $3,628 per month while the state median in Montana is a little less, at $3,513. The cost of Assisted Living in Montana is a tad lower than the national average, although Montana has a higher cost of living than the national average. Some facilities may be more or less expensive depending on their location, the level of care that is required to care for the residents, and the number of staff and training that is necessary to provide the appropriate level of care. Within the state of Montana alone, the costs of assisted living facilities vary, but not too much - from $3,200 per month in Great Falls to almost $3,900 in Billings, Montana.
Adult Day Health Care and Home Health Aides are other options that people use to care for seniors in America. In Montana, the state median for Adult Day Health Care averages almost $2,100 per month or close to $25,000 per year. A Home Health Aide in Montana costs, on average $4,385 a month, or over $52,000 annually. Home Health Day Care is usually only offered for between eight to twelve hours per day and the cost of a Home Health Aide is based on a 44-hour week. Therefore, in Montana, although most people would prefer to remain in their homes, it may be cheaper to look into in an assisted living facility. It is also important to remember while Home Health Aides are important and helpful, they are not licensed nurses, nor are there licensed nurses available if necessary which is something that is available in most Montana Assisted Living Facilities. Home Health Aides provide wonderful hands on care for clients, yet they usually do not do housekeeping that is part of the monthly payment at Assisted Living Facilities. In the state of Montana, the state median for care in an Assisted Living facility is cheaper than that of a Home Health Aide.
In Montana, a semi-private room in a nursing facility costs close to $80,000 per year, and a private room will cost close to $84,000 annually. By the year 2030, it is estimated that the cost of Assisted Living in Montana will be around $64,000 per year – an increase of over $20,000. The cost of Nursing Home Care will increase to approximately $120,000 for a semi-private room and almost $126,000 for a private room by 2030. Also, as the regulations increase in both nursing homes and in Assisted Living in Montana, the prices of care within these facilities will increase as well.
Within Montana itself, the costs of Assisted Living Care vary as well, for example, these are the latest approximate costs of a monthly stay in an Assisted Living Facility in Montana:
- Great Falls, Montana - $3,200;
- Missoula, Montana - $3,200;
- Billings, Montana - $3,899;
Pros and Cons of Senior Living in Montana
Here are some things to consider for seniors when choosing whether to live and retire in Montana:
- Low population – with only 1.02 million people living in 145,529 square miles the population density is a low 7 people per square mile;
- Outdoor activities and beauty – almost 3.3 million acres of wilderness are administered by either the state or federal government – that is 35% of the total land in the state. Federally recognized parks in Montana include: Glacier National Park, three of the five entrances to Yellowstone National Park, Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, Little Bighorn National Monument, National Bison Range and Big Hole National Battlefield. There is another 16.8 million acres of forest in ten National Forests in the state and 8.1 million of acres is controlled by the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management. The areas managed by the National Park Services include: Big Hole National Battlefield, Glacier National Park, Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, Nez Perce National Historic Park, Yellowstone National Park and Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument,;
- Care for Veterans – Montana ranks as the second-best nation in the United States for retired Veterans, and first in healthcare for Veterans. Not only are there VA facilities all over the state, but Montana also ranks second in the proportion of veterans to the total population and has the largest number of veteran-owned businesses;
- HealthCare – The Billings Clinic hospital system was ranked #1 by Consumer Reports and has branch facilities in other cities. The Kalispell-Whitefish resort area is ranked as one of America’s top hospitals; and
- Crime Rate – the rate of violent and property crimes in the Montana is lower than the national average. On a scale from 1-100, violent crime in Montana ranks at a low 29, while property crime (burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson) in Montana ranks at 41. The U.S. Average for violent crime is 31.1 and for property crimes it is 38.1; but
- Difficult to travel – traveling to Montana can be difficult. The drive is long, depending on where you are driving from, and flying requires you to change planes at either Salt Lake City or Denver, which can be confusing, expensive, and time-consuming.
Financial Information for Montana Seniors
Montana has an income tax that is divided into seven brackets – ranging from 1% to 6.9%. There is no state sales tax in Montana, nor are there any local sales taxes. However, there are resort and local option taxes in some communities and Montana has a “bed tax” of 4% on overnight lodging which goes to support the tourism promotion efforts of Montana. Property tax is assessed on farm equipment, heavy equipment, automobiles, trucks, and business equipment. There is also a per capita fee on livestock. Household goods and intangible goods are exempt from Montana’s property taxes. The amount of property tax owed is determined by a mathematical equation set by the Montana Legislature and then the additional county and city taxes are added. There are quite a few property tax relief and exemptions available in Montana.
Montana does not impose an inheritance tax since December 31, 2000. There is also no estate tax on deaths that occurred after January 1, 2005. Montana is moderately tax-friendly state for seniors, due to the following:
- Income from Social Security in MT is partially taxed;
- Withdrawals from retirement accounts in Montana are fully taxed;
- Wages are taxed at normal rates, in Montana this is 6.9%;
- Public pension income in MT is fully taxed; and
- Private pension income in MT is fully taxed.
Montana is a lower-price state than the national average. For example, what you could purchase for $100 in Montana is what you would expect to spend $106.16 on in another state; however, the cost of living is higher in Montana than it is in other states with housing being the biggest difference. Out of 100 points, Montana ranked below the national average with a cost of living of 102.80. Montana rated higher in the categories of: overall (103), grocery (108.9), health (105), housing (104), and miscellaneous (103). Yet it ranked lower in transportation (98), and utilities (93.)
Places of Interest for Seniors Living in Montana
There are many things that might be of interest for senior citizens in Montana, many of which are outdoors or at national parks. We encourage you to research and visit some places that you would enjoy as every person, including seniors, enjoys different activities. However, some of the more interesting things that seniors, and those who visit them, may enjoy in Montana include:
- Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument – located in Crow Agency, Montana. This is a monument for the soldiers who died at Custer’s Last Stand (now known as the Battle of Little Bighorn), who are memorialized here, where the Plains Indians outnumbered Custer’s men and slaughtered them;
- Cathedral of Saint Helena – located in Helena, Montana – this cathedral was built during the years when Helena had money to spend. It is designed after a cathedral in Vienna, Austria. It was damaged during the 1935 earthquake but was restored many years ago. In 1980, the Cathedral of Saint Helena was added to the National Register of Historic Places;
- Clark Chateau – located in Butte, Montana – this historical mansion is located in uptown Butte and has exhibits and history which show the different families and organizations that have been housed here over the years;
- Dumas Brothel Museum – located in Butte, Montana – this historic building is in the old Red-Light district in Uptown Butte, Montana. It was built in 1830s when the town of Butte was full of miners and remained open as a brothel until 1982, making it the longest running house of ill-repute in America. It is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is the last remaining building of Victorian Brothel style architecture in the US. Since 2012, the owners have been trying to restore the building and protect it. It is now an antique shop and museum and tours are available throughout the year;
- National Bison Range – it contains 19,000 acres of natural grassland which is home to 500 bison and other animals;
- Our Lady of the Rockies – located in Butte, Montana –a 90-foot statue that sits atop the Continental Divide. It was placed there on December 29, 1985 where it overlooks the city. The base of the statue sits 8510 feet above sea level and 3,500 feet above the city of Butte. At night the statue is lit and can be seen from different parts of the city. You can’t drive to the statue and must take a bus;
- Flathead Lake – located near Polson, Montana – the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River. Flathead Lake is a remnant of the last interglacial age. It is dammed by Kerr Dam and is one of the cleanest lakes in the world;
- Going-to-the-Sun-Road – located in Glacier National Park, Montana – a scenic 52-mile highway that goes across the Glacier National Park and through the Continental Divide at Logan Pass;
- Yellowstone Historic Center – located in West Yellowstone, Montana – this museum is housed in the original 1909 Union Pacific Railroad Depot and has both permanent and temporary collections which tell the stories to those traveling to Yellowstone as well as the history of the town of West Yellowstone. Free walking tours are available during the summer; and
- Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center – located in West Yellowstone, Montana – a place where you can see live grizzly bears and wolves at this accredited, not-for-profit Wildlife Park and Educational Facility. Some of the activities include: Keeper’s Kids, live Bird-of-Prey exhibits, Wolf Enrichment, Safety in Bear Country Programs, Yellowstone Park Ranger Talks, and a World-Class Bear Museum. It’s open 365 days a year and admission is good for two consecutive days.
Some cities to consider for Montana Senior Living
We have identified some of the best cities for Montana senior living, and they are as follows:
- Great Falls, Montana – located in Cascade County, Montana. It is the third biggest city in Montana and is home to the University of Great Falls, C. M. Russell Museum Complex, Giant Springs, Great Falls College Montana State University, the Roe River, the Great Falls Voyagers minor league population, the Montana School for the Deaf and Blind and Malmstrom Air Force Base. The population of Great Falls, Montana is approximately 60,000 with almost 16% who belong to the senior community of age 65 or older. Last year, Great Falls ranked #1 out of 13 of the “Best Places to Retire in Montana,” #13 of 20 of the “Best Places to Live in Montana,” and #10 out of 20 of the “Best Places to Buy a House in Montana;
- Whitefish, Montana – located in Flathead County – Whitefish is the home to a ski resort called “Whitefish Mountain Resort,” the “Stumptown Historical Society Museum,” the “Great Northern Brewing Company,” the “Alpine Theatre Project,” and “Whitefish Theatre Company.” The population of Whitefish is approximately 7,100 of which approximately 14% are senior citizens age 65 or older. Last year, Whitefish ranked #4 out of 13 of the “Best Places to Retire in Montana,” #7 out of 13 of the “Healthiest Places to Live in Montana,” and #6 out of 20 of the “Best Places to Live in Montana;”
- Missoula, Montana – a city located in, and the county seat of, Missoula County, Montana. It is situated along the Clark Fork River where the river meets the Bitterroot and Blackfoot Rivers, and also where five mountain ranges – the Bitterroot Mountains, Sapphire Range, Garnet Range, Rattlesnake Mountains, and the Reservation Divide – converge, explaining its nickname as the “hub of five valleys.” It is the 2nd largest city in the state of Montana with a population of approximately 72,000 of which around 9% of the population belong to the 65+ senior community. Missoula also has the only Level II Trauma Center in the region and the largest medical facility in Western Montana. Last year, Missoula ranked #12 out of 13 of the “Best Places to Retire in Montana,” #4 out of 20 of the “Most Diverse Places to Live in Montana,” and #3 of 13 of the “Healthiest Places to Live in Montana;”
- Billings, Montana – located in, and the county seat of, Yellowstone County, Montana. Billings is the largest city in Montana and is the principal city of the Billings Metropolitan Area. Billings is the only city in Montana that has a population of over 100,000 people and has been experiencing rapid growth, with sections of the city seeing a growth rate of almost 58% in the last 2 censuses. The population of Billings is approximately 110,500 of which around 15% are residents age 65 or older. Last year, Billings ranked #6 out of 13 of the “Best Places to Retire in Montana,” #97 out of 223 of the “Best Cities to Retire in America,” #87 out of 223 of the “Best Cities to Buy a House in America,” and #82 out of 208 of the “Safest Cities in Montana;”
- Evergreen, Montana – an unincorporated community in Flathead County, Montana. Evergreen is only four miles from away the center of the town of Kalispell and one of the entrances to Glacier National Park is 29 miles northeast of Evergreen. The population of Evergreen, Montana is approximately 7,800 of which a tad over 10% belong to the 65+ senior community. Last year, Evergreen ranked 13th on the “Best Places to Retire in Montana" and #5 out of 13 of the “Healthiest Places to Live in Montana”.
- Bozeman, Montana – located in, and the county seat of, Gallatin County, Montana. Bozeman is home to Montana State University, the Montana Arboretum and Gardens, the Museum of the Rockies, and the American Computer Museum to name a few. The population of Bozeman is estimated to be around 44,000 people with approximately 8% of the population belonging to the senior community of 65 years or older. Last year, Bozeman ranked #9 out of 13 of the “Best Places to Retire in Montana,” #1 out of 20 of the “Best Places to Live in Montana,” #9 out of 20 of the “Best Places to Buy a House in Montana,” #4 out of 15 of the “Safest Places to Live in Montana, and #1 out of 13 of the “Healthiest Places to Live in Montana;”
- Flatwoods, Montana – a city, located in Greenup County, Montana. Flatwoods itself has no large employer within the city, so it is referred to as a “bedroom community.” The population of Flatwoods is estimated to be around 7,400 of which over 16% are senior citizens 65 years of age or older. Last year, Flatwoods ranked #1 out of 130 of “Best Places to Retire in Montana,” #6 of 91 of the “Safest Places to Live in Montana,” and #18 out of 135 of the “Best Places to Buy a House in Montana;”
- Laurel, Montana – located in Yellowstone County, Montana. Laurel is the third biggest community in the Billings Metropolitan Statistical Area, and is in the Yellowstone Valley. Laurel is home to Montana’s Rail Link’s Laurel Yard which is the largest rail yard between St. Paul, Minnesota and Pasco, Washington. The population of Laurel, Montana is approximately 7,000 residents, with a 65+ senior community of almost 16%. Last year, Laurel ranked #7 out of 13 of the “Best Places to Retire in Montana,” #12 out of 20 of the “Best Places to Raise a Family in Montana,” and #13 out of 20 of the “Best Places to Buy a House in Montana;”
- Helena, Montana – located in, and the county seat of, Lewis and Clark County, Montana. Helena is the capital of Montana and is home to Carroll College, the Cathedral of Saint Helena, and the Helena Civic Center as well as other historical buildings. There is a local ski area, the Great Divide Ski Area, that is close to the town of Helena and near the ghost town of Marysville, Montana. The population of Helena is approximately 31,000 with close to 15.5% of people living there who are 65 or older. Last year, Helena ranked #3 out of 13 of the “Best Places to Retire in Montana,” #2 out of 20 of the “Best Places to Live in Montana,” and #4 out of 13 of the “Healthiest Places to Live in Montana"; and
- Butte, Montana – located in, and the county seat of, Silver Bow County, Montana. Butte is Montana’s fifth largest city. Popular tourist attractions in Butte include: Montana Tech, MBMG Mineral Museum, Our Ladies of the Rockies Statue," the “Berkeley Pit,” and the “Dumas Brothel.” The latter is widely thought to be America’s longest running houses of prostitution. The population of Butte is approximately 35,000 with 16% of that population who belong to the age 65 or older senior community. Last year, Butte ranked #2 out of 13 of the “Best Places to Retire in Montana,” #7 out of 20 of the “Best Places to Live in Montana,” and #11 out of 20 of the “Best Places to Buy a House in Montana.”