Guide to Independent Living in Montana
Montana’s vast open plains, sparsely populated areas and few tall buildings have seen it dubbed “Big Sky Country.” With just under 1.1 million residents, it’s the third least densely populated state in the union, and its 65+ age group comprises an above-average 19.3% of the population. The state offers several financial incentives for retirees, such as its below-average cost of living and senior-friendly tax rates. There’s no state sales taxes, and property taxes are at the lower end of the scale for the country.
Independent living can be a good solution for relatively healthy seniors who prefer to live among their peers. Although each community is unique, a common theme is homes designed around older residents’ needs. Units may feature smaller rooms, low-maintenance surfaces and fewer steps. There will also be a lifestyle center that has spaces where residents can socialize and take part in games, sports and community-organized events. Many facilities also have spas, and some even have golf courses or putting greens.
This guide reviews the average costs of independent living and other types of senior care in Montana and neighboring states. It also lists some useful free resources for seniors.
How Much Does Independent Living Cost in Montana?
Note: There currently isn’t authoritative data on the average cost of Independent Living Facilities nationwide, so instead, we use the cost of Assisted Living to estimate it. Since the cost of Independent Living is typically 30-40% lower than the cost of Assisted Living, the numbers below were calculated by subtracting 35% from the cost of Assisted Living as reported in the 2021 Genworth Cost of Care Survey.
Although Montana’s average independent living fee of $2,893 is below the national median of $2,925, it’s the highest when compared to the states sharing its borders. In Wyoming, the average senior pays $2,710 per month for independent living, while in Idaho, the median is $2,495. Fees are lower in the Dakotas with seniors in North Dakota paying $2,204 and $2,178 in South Dakota.
The United States
The Cost of Independent Living in Montana’s Top Cities
Of the three Montana cities included in the 2021 Genworth Cost of Care Survey, Great Falls’ average cost of $2,698 is the only one below the state median. Fees rise to around $2,967 in Billings, while the $3,023 typically paid in Missoula is the costliest in the state.
The Cost of Independent Living vs. Other Types of Senior Care
Although independent living doesn’t offer the health care services provided with other types of senior care, at $2,893 per month, it does offer a financially competitive alternative for residents with fewer health complaints. Assisted living also provides accommodations and amenities, but its health care services typically add another $1,557 per month to fees. The difference is greater when comparing independent living to nursing home care. The typical Montana senior pays $7,574 per month for a semiprivate nursing home room. Those who prefer to remain at home pay a premium for one-on-one services as homemaker and home health aide agencies charge around $5,339. Only adult day care centers have lower fees than independent living. However, at $2,600 per month, the $293 difference is less attractive when home maintenance costs are factored into the overall monthly bill.
Adult Day Health Care
Home Health Aide
Assisted Living Facility
Nursing Home Facility (semiprivate room)
Does Medicare or Medicaid Cover Independent Living in Montana?
The short answer is no, Medicaid and Medicare do not cover the cost of living in an independent living community. That being said, those who need help with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), may be able to take advantage of financial assistance programs in Montana to partially or fully cover the cost of care in Assisted Living. For more information about financial assistance for those who need help with ADLs, read our guide to Assisted Living in Montana.
For more information about other ways to make Independent Living more affordable, such as retirement funds, the sale of a home, etc, read the section below.
How to Make Independent Living More Affordable in Montana
Many seniors use their savings and retirement incomes to pay independent living fees, while others employ alternative solutions. These include reverse mortgages, which are home equity loans that seniors don’t pay back until they or their families sell the home used as collateral. Many cash-value life insurance policies cover some or all independent living fees, while long-term care insurance is designed for this purpose. However, seniors should read the fine print as some policies may not pay all costs or cover the full period of time required in the independent living community. Insurance companies also offer annuity contracts where, for one-off or multiple payments, the company issues annuities to cover independent living costs over a predetermined period of time.
Free Independent Living Resources for Seniors in Montana
There are many government agencies and nonprofit organizations within Montana that provide free assistance to seniors. Those listed here can help people file their taxes, get legal representation on civil law matters, join nonprofits to help their communities and access the benefits they’re entitled to receive.
|Montana Veteran Affairs Division||(406) 324-3742||The Montana Veteran Affairs Division advocates for U.S. military vets and their families throughout the state. Its services include helping service members identify and apply for local, state and federal benefits. Officers can help with other programs, such as arranging tuition waivers for the University of Montana and Montana State University. The division also operates a suicide prevention line for vets and their dependents.|
|Area Agencies on Aging||Multiple Locations||Montana helps seniors at the local level through 10 Area Agencies on Aging that operate in every corner of the state. They are primarily focused on helping older residents continue living at home but also provide several services useful to residents of independent living communities. These include providing information, assisting with legal issues related to civil law and enabling access to adult protective services for those who may be victims of elder abuse.|
|AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Program||(877) 434-7598||AARP operates a tax-aide program with locations throughout Montana where seniors can meet with IRS-certified advisers. The program also operates online should seniors be too far from their nearest adviser. It can help them prepare their taxes or do most of the prep work if the senior prefers. Although the program is open to everyone over 50 years of age, AARP gives priority to low- and moderate-income clients.|
|AmeriCorps RSVP Montana||(800) 942-2677||AmeriCorps administers the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, which is operated locally by many organizations across Montana, including Missoula Aging Services, HRDC and the Rocky Mountain Development Council. RSVP operators connect seniors with nonprofits and government agencies in their areas that rely on community support to fulfill their functions. Work is varied and may use the senior’s existing skills or require training. In all cases, RSVP covers the cost of accident and liability insurance while the volunteer is working.|
|Montana Senior Medicare Patrol||(800) 551-3191||The Montana Senior Medicare Patrol is a state-sponsored organization staffed by volunteers who educate seniors on how to avoid being scammed by fraudsters. This includes methods used by scammers to obtain Medicare insurance card numbers. Staff also help seniors identify mistakes on their medical bills and understand their Medicare Summary Notices.|
COVID-19 Rules and Restrictions for Montana Independent Living Communities
The following rules and guidelines were obtained from dphhs.mt.gov/publichealth, as well as other state-level government sites. Among others, these rules apply to independent living communities and assisted living facilities.
This data has been most recently updated on 2/8/2022, but keep in mind that COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving crisis, so all of the below information can change at any time. For additional questions and up-to-date information, you can contact your loved one’s senior living facility or your local Area Agency on Aging.
Visiting Loved Ones
|Can I visit my relative in person if he/she wants emotional support from me?||Yes (Conditions Apply)|
|Can I visit my relative in person for end-of-life compassion care?||Yes|
|Will my loved one be required to self-quarantine after I visit him or her?||No|
|Do I need to wear PPE and/or a cloth mask if I do visit my relative in person?||Yes|
|Are Hairdressers and other non-medical contractors still allowed in senior living facilities?||Yes|
|Does the state recommend or require that senior living facilities assist families with setting up virtual visit alternatives?||Yes|
|Are visitors being screened for elevated temperatures?||Yes|
|Are visitors being asked questions about health, travel, and potential virus contact?||Yes|
Outings and Group Activities
|Are residents allowed to leave the facility for non-medical reasons?||Yes|
|Are residents of senior living facilities who leave and return required to self-quarantine?||No (Conditions Apply)|
|Are senior living facilities required to cancel all group outings?||No|
|Are residents still eating together in the dining hall?||Yes (Conditions Apply)|
|Are facilities still allowed to host group activities within the community?||Yes (Conditions Apply)|
Safety Measures for Staff & Contractors
|Are staff members and contractors being screened for elevated temperatures?||Yes|
|Are staff members and contractors being tested for Coronavirus?||Yes (Conditions Apply)|
|Are staff members and contractors being asked questions about health, travel, and potential virus contact?||Yes|
Safety Measures for Residents
|Are staff members required to regularly screen residents for coronavirus symptoms?||Yes|
|Are residents relied on to screen themselves and self-report potential coronavirus symptoms?||No|
|Are staff members required to take residents’ temperatures?||Yes|
|Are residents being tested for coronavirus?||Yes (Conditions Apply)|