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POV: Missoula County Aging Services Tax Benefits Entire Community

The challenges and costs of aging can be significant.

If you’re older, you can stay up at night worrying about affordable home care, which health insurance plan to choose, or where to live if you’re no longer able to stay in your own home.

Missoula Aging Services (MAS) helps take some of those worries away. This local nonprofit helps guide Missoula County residents through the maze of health insurance and drug plans, helps families find affordable home care, and connects people to residences for the elderly that meet their needs.

Other MAS programs include Meals on Wheels and the Senior Companion program, which help seniors age in place by providing healthy meals, helping with errands, taking them to medical appointments and checking on their well-being.

In addition, MAS offers courses and support programs for family caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, and it conducts regular inspections of nursing homes to ensure that tenants receive high quality care.

These are all essential services that many describe as a “lifeline”. There is no doubt: MAS changes and improves lives. But as our senior population grows, demand for these programs increases.

Missoula County’s aging population grew 40% between 2010 and 2019, four times the rate of overall population growth, but funding has not kept pace with need. MAS programs are thus put to the test. By approving the Missoula County Aging Services Tax in the June 7 primary, we will replace the current flat tax with a 4 mill tax to ensure that MAS can maintain these services and keep pace with demand.

In addition to helping our older friends, neighbors and family members, voting for the levy also benefits our wider community in many ways.

By helping seniors stay independent and in their own homes, MAS ensures that seniors remain active members of our community who attend local events, support local businesses and nonprofits, and continue to work full-time or part-time. Older people have the skills, wisdom and work ethic to do their job well.

MAS also serves as a pipeline for community volunteers. Its customers help in our local schools, with law enforcement and emergency services, and in many of our many non-profit organizations, again sharing their passion, wisdom and professional skills for the benefit of our community.

Finally, by providing older adults with the support and resources they need to age well in place, MAS helps people avoid expensive institutional care, about two-thirds of which is taxpayer-funded. As such, MAS offers people a ‘helping hand’ rather than a ‘coup de main’, allowing older people to pay what they can afford for additional home care.

Please join me in voting for the Missoula County Aging Services Tax. This is a valuable investment in our entire community and in the people whose lifetime contributions have helped make Missoula County the vibrant and prosperous place it is today.

Terry Payne is a longtime Missoula business leader. He and his wife Patt are active in the community, supporting local nonprofits and causes.

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