ITS LONG coastline and abundance of rural areas are seen as a cultural asset but they also mean that the county of Dorset will almost certainly become one of the places hardest hit by Britain’s ageing population.

According to the Office for National Statistics, rural areas as well as coasts already have the highest proportion of older people. “Within the UK, the older population is not equally spread across local areas, with older people making up higher proportions of the populations of rural and coastal areas than urban areas,” said the ONS.

“The 10 local authorities with the highest percentage of the population aged 65 years and over are on the coast, with five being in the South West region of England where more than 21.6 per cent of the population are aged 65 years and over,” it said.

The ONS said the largest increases will be in the over-85s age group but the number of over 65s would mushroom too, with around 40 per cent of the entire west of England population calculated to be over the age of 65 within 20 years.

Conversely, said the ONS, the number of young people moving to the countryside was not expected to grow.

“In mid-2016, there were 1.6 million people aged 85 years - over two per cent of the total population - by mid-2041 this is projected to double to 3.2 million and by 2066 to treble, by which time there will be 5.1 million people aged 85 years and over making up seven per cent of the total UK population,” it said. “In contrast, the population aged 16 to 64 years is projected to increase by only two per cent over the next 25 years and by five per cent by 2066.”

The ONS pointed out that one of the impacts of this was that because driving declined with age this could leave the elderly living in rural areas 'isolated and struggling to access services'.

Ageing would also impact hospitals and social care, it said.