Butterfly Homes in Billings

by Erik Olson
Photos by Casey Page

Ardy Robertson chose her room in the newest residence at Butterfly Homes in Billings Heights for a simple reason: the view.

The former Roundup resident was the first member of Butterfly’s new assisted-living facility, so she had her pick of rooms. She chose the one with a window facing an attractive, light-colored house next door, and she made it her own.

Family photos adorn the chest of drawers against one wall, and Robertson’s recliner is next to her bed, both facing the window. After three months there, and family living nearby in the Heights, Robertson said she feels comfortable in her new digs.

“It’s home. Absolutely. It’s home,” she said before heading for a walk through the building.

Butterfly Homes completed construction of the 13-unit facility in November, its third on-site in a cul-de-sac at the end of Lily Valley Circle behind the Heights Baptist church.

The $2.7 million project – which included $1.6 million for the assisted living facility and common areas, $900,000 for corporate offices and storage and renovation of two existing homes – opened in November.

In addition to new residential spaces, a library/family room, activity room and additional storage was added for Butterfly Homes, which owners Janet and Mike White and Gayle Laufer launched in 2003.

The lower part of the new addition houses the corporate offices for Caslen Living Centers, a company formed by the Whites in 2006. Caslen has homes in Columbus, Lewistown, Livingston, Helena, Whitehall and Anaconda.

Janet White operates the three homes for Butterfly with a total of 37 units. Mike White operates the other homes for Caslen Living Centers.

The newest home for Butterfly has five suites with separate living and bedrooms, plus eight rooms like the one Robertson lives in.

Mike White said private studio room rates range from $115 to $125 per day and $3,500 to $3,800 per month. Their one-bedroom suite rate is $160 a day or $4,850 a month.

They bill is based on a daily rate, he said. The average cost for an assisted living room in Billings
$128 a day or $3,899 a month, according to the Genworth Financial cost of care survey.

A staff member makes lunch at Butterfly Homes in Billings

A staff member makes lunch at Butterfly Homes in Billings

According to a 2013 study by the Montana Department of Commerce, Montana’s population is expected to rise and grow older over the next two decades. Birth rates aren’t keeping up with death rates, and retiree migration into the state is creating demand for services such as housing, according to the agency.

The aging baby boomer population is creating new demand for senior housing, analysts say, and owners are weighing new models to meet their needs.

Writing for AssistedLivingFacilities.org, industry expert Carol Marak said that proprietors need to develop space that encourages active, social living. At the same time, they must also recognize that incoming residents probably haven’t saved as much money as previous generations, Marak wrote.

At Butterfly Homes, the Whites say they’re building a community for residents. The new building connects to an older facility by a long hallway and includes wide common areas.

Up front is a library, with table and chairs and a couch in the corner. It’s designed as a gathering place for families, and a sliding door allows residents privacy if they want, White said.

That door opens into the kitchen and dining area, a wide space with wood-finished chairs around a table.

“More of a home-like setting. They have their meals together, and they get to know everyone,” White said.

Butterfly has a cook in each home and maintains higher staffing ratios than industry averages. About two-thirds are part-timers, often young people interested in careers in nursing or other fields, White said.

“If you’re really interested in the health care industry, it’s a good … on-the-ground experience,” White said.

Butterfly also has an on-call nurse on staff.

Next to the kitchen is a den for gathering, with a fireplace in the corner and a flat-screen TV against one wall.

“It’s just a nice place,” White said.

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