The number of older people living in the countryside will soar faster than in urban areas, according to a new study.

The greying rural population will mean Government policy changes are necessary, but will also bring opportunities for some areas, researchers said.

The findings, from Newcastle University, will be discussed with other experts in York today.

Figures show that 5.3 million of England's projected 5.5 million population growth until 2028 will be due to the rise in the over-60s, as the Baby Boomers finally reach pensionable age.

They will mainly be living in rural districts, with numbers of people living in the countryside aged 85 and over predicted to treble in the period.

The ageing population is largely a result of younger people moving out of the countryside for education or work and affordable housing, and older people moving into rural areas around retirement.

The largest rural population gains are of people in their 30s or 40s and their children - and while the children often move away when they grow up, their parents remain.

The Newcastle University experts say the changing countryside demographics raise issues which should be urgently addressed.

These include rural housing, which researchers say is inadequate to serve the ageing population, and commercial and public services, which should be adapted to serve less mobile users.

Rural areas should do more to attract young people, say researchers.

Professor Philip Lowe, of Newcastle University, who will co-present an overview of the "greying countryside" at the seminar, said: "It's ageist and misleading to say that the older population presents a threat and a burden to our society.

"However, there are key challenges posed by the ageing rural population, which, if addressed, should enrich life in the countryside for everybody, not just for older people."

Professor Neil Ward, director of Newcastle University's Centre for Rural Economy, which organised the event, added: "The ageing population also presents many opportunities for the countryside.

"For example, many people over 50 are highly skilled and either run businesses or are highly active in local communities.

"Ageing communities are likely to become increasingly reliant on services staffed by volunteers, such as community transport, local conservation work, neighbourhood support and running village halls."

The event, The Ageing Society as a Driver of Rural Development, will take place at the Moat House Hotel, in York, today.