On the short list of emerging new roles in healthcare design, the urban planner deserves a spot near the top, right alongside the landscape architect and the sustainable design director.

With the aging Baby Boom population and the general trends towards aging in place and wellness, today's aging population has really impacted not just the long-term care market, but urban planning, as well. More and more seniors are choosing to live in cities rather than suburbs for a number of reasons, and the heat is on the urban design community to accomodate them.

In M. Scott Ball's recently published Livable Communities for Aging Populations: Urban Design for Longevity, the author provides guideposts on urban planning and building design that allows for people to age in their own homes and communities, with a focus on lifelong neighborhoods where the basic needs of the aging population are kept accessible. Ball's book examines all the factors in play -- from social, economic, and public health angles, and more -- and details a number of case studies to establish some best practices for communities of all shapes and sizes.

Books like Ball's are sure to be of interest in the next decade, and the healthcare design community could do itself a favor by taking some cues from the advice given therein. If (and that's a big If, of course) the healthcare model of the future leads to a healthier population in general that actively tries to stay healthy to avoid healthcare facilities altogether -- which I personally find very likely -- then the healthcare design community will need to adapt its own best practices to this new way of thinking, establishing healthcare facilities in a new role in a new environment -- be it urban or rural, large or small.