Fairfax County Looks at “Peter Pan” Housing


Fairfax County Office of Public Affairs
12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 551
Fairfax, VA 22035-0065
Contact: Merni Fitzgerald, Director of Public Affairs
703-324-3187, TTY 711, Fax 703-324-2010
Media Pager: 703-324-NEWS (6397)
publicaffairs@fairfaxcounty.gov

Jan. 9, 2007

Fairfax County Looks at “Peter Pan” Housing

Visitors during the recent holidays may have highlighted the need to ensure homes are “visit-able” — accessible for older guests or those with physical disabilities.  In Fairfax County, home to more than 100,000 older adults, the Board of Supervisors has been studying “visit-ability,” and related issues of how to adapt current housing to meet the changing needs of aging residents, and how to design new homes that are built without barriers.

Sometimes referred to as “Peter Pan” housing, much of the housing in the county is built as though residents will never grow old or never need to house an aging relative. Features such as entry stairs, narrow doorways or lack of a first-floor bathroom can be major barriers for an older person or someone with a physical disability. 

“People want to grow older gracefully — in their own homes,” observed Gerald E. Connolly, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. “What if we built it right in the first place?”

“Visit-ability should be the starting point for new construction,” said Lee District Supervisor Dana Kauffman. “What does it take? A no-step entrance, an accessible place where family and friends can gather, and a main floor bathroom that can be used by people who have mobility impairments. It is much cheaper to build it right than to have to retrofit it later.”

Retrofitting a home may be costly, but according to Al McAloon, the Lee District appointee to the Redevelopment and Housing Authority Board, “Adding an elevator in a home is still cheaper than the first-year cost of assisted living.”

In May 2006, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors convened an Aging Committee, chaired by Kauffman, to examine the various challenges the county faces as its population ages and to develop a comprehensive policy plan to ensure that Fairfax County is and remains an “aging-friendly” community. As a result of these discussions, county staff have been directed to:

  • Review current building codes and develop ways to educate architects, builders and future homeowners about how to build homes that can be adapted as needs change.
  • Look at ways to increase homeowner or renter financing options for retrofitting homes, and to streamline the application processes for currently available financing options.
  • Identify legislative changes that may be needed to increase the availability of older adult-friendly housing.

Upcoming Aging Committee meetings — which are open to the public — will focus on transportation, community planning, the impact of technology, cultural diversity and other topics. For more information about Aging Committee meetings, contact Grace Starbird, director, Fairfax Area Agency on Aging, 703-324-5414, TTY 703-449-1186.

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For more news and information, visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/news.

Fairfax County is committed to nondiscrimination on the basis of disability in all county programs, services and activities. To request this information in an alternate format, call the Office of Public Affairs at 703-324-3187, TTY 711.

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