Montana calls to mind the quintessential traits and traditions of the American West. Sitting in the northern Rocky Mountain West, and forming part of the western border with Canada, the state's offerings abound in quality and quantity for the current or future retiree. Not for nothing is the state known as "Big Sky Country" — a place of open spaces, fresh air, and the dramatic history that has brought this land from gold-rush destination to territory to state in the past two centuries. For a senior keen to mix natural beauty, accessible and affordable healthcare, and a lively dose of the past and present, Montana may top the list as a retirement destination.
Helena, population 33,900, serves as Montana's capital city. The west-central town got its start during the gold rush of the 1860's, prompting the US federal government to establish the Montana territory in 1864. For its wealth and its opportunities, Helena became known as the "Queen City of the Rockies." That legacy shows in the city's concentration of Victorian architecture, an attraction for locals and outside visitors alike.
Active seniors will enjoy Helena's wide range of outdoor options, which include city parks and wilderness areas to the lake-like formation on the Missouri River, which lies east of town and is popular with anglers and boaters. The town has more than a dozen senior communities that serve all levels of need, according to the database Senior Housing Net. The Masonic Home of Montana sits inside the Lake Helena Wildlife Management Area, while Lake Helena, just west of the community, offers fresh air and peaceful surroundings galore.
Missoula, whose 77,000 inhabitants make it a much larger town than Helena, is the largest destination on this list. The western town's scale provides a long list of things to see and do for seniors at all levels of mobility. Sited along the Clark Fork River, in the shadow of the unusually named Mt. Jumbo, Missoula's outdoorsy side is apparent all over town. The Rattlesnake National Recreation Area offers a robust network of hiking and biking trails. For culture, seniors and visiting friends can head to the Missoula Art Museum, which showcases the best of Montana and the broader American West. The town's two historic theaters each host annual festivals, namely the International Wildlife Film Festival and the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival.
Senior living options include nearly twenty locations, including Clark Fork Riverside, which hugs the bank of the river and is geared toward low-income and affordable-housing home seekers.
The town of Butte, population about 35,000, lies a 120-mile drive southwest from Missoula. Butte is another town that spring up in the state's 19th-century mining boom, and minerals extraction continues today. The Uptown Historic District will delight seniors and visiting family with its well-preserved, often lavish homes built in the Queen Anne style popular during the Victorian period. Come March, the town turns out a massive St. Patrick's Day festival — Butte is home to the highest per-capita concentration of Irish-American people in the United States. (Move over, Boston.)
Butte offers nearly a dozen senior living communities, including Legion Oasis, another low-income option, which overlooks Stodden Park and the Highland View Golf Course.
Kalispell, with 28,500 inhabitants, sits in Montana's northwest corner. The town is a dream for active, outdoors-loving retirees. Seniors who want access to fun on the water will find it at Flathead Lake, not to mention the natural bounty of Glacier National Park northwest of town. To the east sits Flathead National Forest, and Kootenai National Forest lies west of town. For touches of culture and history, seek out the Conrad Mansion Museum, the former estate of Missouri River trading magnate and Kalispell town founder, Charles Conrad.
Senior options in Kalispell range from personal care to less intensive senior support. The town has fifteen separate centers, more than half of them available on a low-income basis. Kallispell likewise boasts a wealth of medical centers, from the Health Center Northwest, a hospital, to surgery centers prepared for any emergency.
Livingston, population 8,800, lies just west of the Yellowstone River in the state's southwest. The town, incorporated in 1882, owes its founding to a choice by the Northern Pacific Railroad to build a rail hub and train maintenance station here. Culture enthusiasts will enjoy Livingston Historic District, which offers gems like the Livingston Depot, a restored train station that offers a look back in time. Likewise, at the Yellowstone Gateway Museum, visitors of all ages can explore the natural and human histories of the state. For a jaunt outdoors, the Custer Gallatin National Forest lies south of town, which includes the hikable but challenging Granite Peak — at 12,800 feet, it is the tallest mountain in Montana.
Livingston has four senior living centers, two of them low-income. All four sit in Livingston's downtown.
Belgrade, with 12,000 residents, lies eleven miles northwest of Bozeman. The fast-growing town hosts Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport, a key travel convenience for families visiting seniors, and provides a quiet yet accessible alternative to larger retirement options like Butte or Missoula. Green spaces down Belgrade's downtown, making it an ideal place for the walker who wants a little variety in their routine. Given its smaller size, Belgrade's options for senior care are fewer, with Alternative Care Services offering home care from its downtown offices. Other housing and hospital facilities operate in Bozeman, a short drive away.
Montana Offers Beauty and Variety for Retirees
With these and so many other features in a potential Montana retirement, seniors should consider the state as a great place to settle down after their working years. Larger towns like Missoula and Helena offer a blend of mid-city amenities with a slower pace of life. Smaller places, such as Livingston and Belgrade, deliver on the idea of the bucolic, get-away-from-it-all retirement many dream of post-career. The state's diversity of natural beauty means that almost anywhere in the state will provide the outdoor charms for which the state has long been famous. Whatever a senior's final choice among Montana towns, a fulfilling retirement lifestyle lies within easy reach.