Housing and services need to be adapted as the number of older residents in rural England is set to soar faster than in urban areas, a report says.
Longer life expectancy is behind an ageing population
Longer lives mean over-60s will make up 5.3m of the 5.5m projected population growth in England by 2028, reports the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.
Most will live in rural areas - the number of over-85s is set to treble.
Older people's skills and commitment to communities could be harnessed to help adapt rural areas, the study added.
Remote rural areas in particular are expected to have a 47% increase in the number of residents aged over 50 by 2028, compared with a 30% projected increase across the country as a whole.
Two-fifths of the residents in the English countryside are already aged over 50, one-quarter are aged over 60 and one in 12 is over 75 years old.
The average age of the rural population is 42, compared with 36 for people living in urban areas.
The report said younger people were moving out of rural areas for education and jobs, while older people were arriving at or before retirement.
Local and central government and other bodies needed to urgently address issues raised by the changing demographics, it said.
Rural housing was inadequate for the ageing population and commercial and public services should be adapted for a potentially less mobile population, the researchers said.
They also said countryside communities should do more to attract younger people and migrant workers should be encouraged to move there.
The university's Professor Philip Lowe said: "It's ageist and misleading to say that the older population presents a threat and a burden to our society.
"Most people continue to live active lives and contribute in many ways to their community before and after retirement.
"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 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.
"This suggests that we should be looking at how we can increase the number of volunteers and ensure their commitment - perhaps through a more professional and systematic way of recruiting them."
Some rural districts - including Berwick-upon-Tweed, West Somerset, North Norfolk, East Lindsey, West Dorset and South Lakeland - are expected to have three out of five of their residents aged over 50 by 2028.
The Newcastle University findings are due to be discussed at a conference being held in York.