Good health in old age, the Ayurveda way

In the autumn of his life, health can be a senior citizen’s only wealth.

Ayurveda expert, Dr. Gowthaman takes a look at the answers Ayurveda provides to old age problems.
Ayurveda terms the body as sharira because it has the tendency to decay or degenerate. So, we can say that aging starts right from birth.
Vata bioenergy (dosham) – formed from ether and air among the five elements – is dominant in the last phase of life (approximately last two decades) of an individual. The expression of this negative change could be effected in any form.

Declining health
Old people are thus prone to develop diseases like osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, stroke, heart disease, eye diseases or skin disease. Loss of memory and depression are some of the outcomes at the mental level. Heart problems, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease or blood pressure might occur in association with other factors.

Joint-muscle related illnesses are among the most common occurring conditions in old age. Osteoporosis is a silent disease where bones become extremely fragile. Stroke is the second leading cause of death for people above the age of 60. Prostate gland enlargement in aged men produces leaking or dribbling and frequent urination. Eye diseases like cataract, age related macular degeneration or loss of vision are major eye problems in old age.
The skin loses its elasticity with age, becoming dry and wrinkled. Itching and scratching might cause mechanical injury and secondary bacterial infection. In old age, changes in vision, muscle strength, co-ordination make older people vulnerable to falls. Elderly people have five times more chance to develop constipation.
Diseases manifested during old age begin to process a lot earlier, during the latter part of middle age. Diet constituents, method of preparation and intake, lifestyle, physical activity, job profile etc. during middle age determine the intensity and occurrence of old age related diseases. For example, jobs involving a lot of travel and physical exertion during middle age could end up in degenerative changes like high grade osteoarthrosis during old age.

Prakruthi or body-mind constitution of a person also gives the picture about the specific vulnerability to diseases.

Ayurveda elaborates prevention and then talks about disease management. Regimens are devised for daily life with seasonal specificity. These instructions provide the platform for an individual to minimize the probability of a person  suffering during old age. Added to this, a total change of lifestyle, pollution, erratic eating habits and lack of will to focus on one’s own health add up to the imposing challenge for a healthy old age with reference to current generation.

Ayurveda’s medicinal solutions and therapies are unique as all the above factors are taken into account. At every therapy advocated by Ayurveda, either restrictions are mentioned or lesser grade of treatment for old age are specified.

Old age health care is practiced in adherence to classical Ayurvedic principles with aid of modern diagnostic modules. Integrative medicine is implemented from the stage of recording the suffering to the treatment process by combining yoga and specific ayurvedic diet recommendations. Abhyangam ( therapeutic massage) Swedanam(herbal fomentation or sweating therapy) Dhara, Pizhichil etc. are applied after proper scrutiny of the patient.

Ayurveda, as one of the oldest medical schools, explains about geriatrics or old age medicines. Ayurveda has dedicated two special branches called Rasayana (Rejuvenation) and Vajikarana (Virlification) to prevent old age and manage old age disorders.

Two forms of rasayana therapy
While acquiring the treatment of kutipravesika, the person has to stay indoors. In the meantime, he/she consumes the rasayana, as prescribed by the Ayurvedic practitioner. To perform kutipravesika, elaborate arrangements are done. A special type of cottage is constructed for the purpose, wherein the individual is treated. The person follows a prescribed diet, strictly, while undergoing kutipravesika. Before taking this form of rejuvenation therapy, the person has to undergo Panchkarma therapy (detoxification of body).

While performing the vatatapika method of rejuvenation therapy, the person is given different types of Ayurvedic herbal preparations, as prescribed by the practitioner. This treatment is especially suitable for those, who cannot stay at an Ayurvedic clinic for a long time. This treatment suggests that the person should take the medicines at dawn on an empty stomach. Vatatapika can be opted for even without undergoing the Panchakarma therapy.

Benefits of rejuvenation therapy

1.  It improves the overall health of the person undergoing the treatment.

2. It increases concentration and memory power.

3. The skin looks youthful and radiates a natural glow, after the person undergoes the rejuvenation therapy.

4. It brings calmness and de-stresses the mind, relieving it from anxiety, depression and stress related problems.

5. There is a higher resistance to diseases – Optimum strength of the body is assured by the Rasayana therapy.

After all, it is quality of life which matters and it is measured by health in old age.

Dr. Gowthaman is Director, rVita

Image: Simon Howden/