Ageing is a process of physical, psychological and social change in multi-dimensional aspects. The World population of the elderly is increasing and by the year 2050, adults older than 65 years will comprise.
1/5 th of the global population. In India 3.8% of the population are older than 65 years of age. According to an estimate the likely number of elderly people in India by 2016 will be around 113 million. The cause of morbidity and mortality world over is shifting from communicable diseases a few decades ago to non- communicable diseases. The leading causes of mortality among aged people comprise respiratory problems, heart diseases, cancer and stroke. Significant causes of morbidity among this group is chronic inflammatory and degenerative conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, depression, psychiatric disorders, Parkinson’s disease and age-related urinary problems.
Ayurveda, the Indian traditional holistic health science has got the potential for prevention of diseases by promotion of health and management of diseases occurring in old age. It has a focused branch called Rasayana (Rejuvenation) which deals with the problems related to ageing and methods to counter the same. Geriatrics or Jara cikitsa or Rasayana in Ayurveda is a unique therapeutic methodology to delay ageing and to minimize the intensity of problems occuring this degenerative phase of one's life.
Ayurvedic treatment as such is very individualistic and general; sometimes physician may need to prescribe different formulations for patients having the same disease, considering their prakriti (constitution),satmya (habit / allergies),bala (strength), etc. It is difficult to bring out generalized management plans for a disease condition and implement the same in a large-scale geriatric’s population. There is a need to come up with protocols to document, diagnose in an integrative framework for the holistic management of geriatric problems. Prevention and management of health problems could help the elderly to improve quality of life and remain self-dependent for their daily activities to maximum possible extent. Ayurveda has broad spectrum of preventing measures for combating the ageing process which is still widely practiced in our country.Ayurvedic literature record numerous single and compound plant based medicines, herbo-mineral, herbo-metalic (a few) formulations for general well-being and in disease specific conditions relating to geriatrics.
Maintenance of a healthy life by one's own right action is called Svasthavrtta which means the regime of abiding one's own nature. Health is the dynamic integration between our environment, body, mind and spirit. Ayurveda and other traditional Indian health systems lay emphasis on preventing the diseases. Elaborate description is available on personal hygiene encompass diet and regimen during daily routine (Dinacarya),seasonal routine (rtucarya) and behavioural and ethical guidelines (sadvrtta). Observance of certain rules regarding suppressible and non-suppressible urges also paves way towards positive health. These practices lay emphasis on prevention of diseases and promotion of health.
The Ayurvedic regimen of right living is designed for maintenance of health achievement of a long, healthy active life, providing relief from pain and disease thereby achieving satisfactory enjoyment of life and attainment of self-realization. It is advisable to wake up during Brahma muhurta (preferably between 4.00 a.m. to 5.30a.m.). This is the best time for study and to gain knowledge.
Cleansing of teeth and mouth should be practiced after every meal in addition to early morning and before going to bed. The soft brushes made out of twigs of khadira, karanja, nimba, arka, apamarga,etc. should be used for this purpose. Tongue and mouth should be cleaned by a long flexible strip of metal or plant material. It not only cleanses the tongue but also stimulates digestion. Mouth should also be cleaned properly. Drinking water early in the morning according to one's capacity cleanses the body by enhancing the elimination of toxic wastes. One should attend the nature's calls. Elimination of urine and faeces cleanse the body and cheers up the mind. Eyes should be cleaned with fresh water to prevent eye diseases and promote vision. Also wash eyes with triphala water every day. Chewing of betel leaves with small pieces of puga (Areca nut) and fragrant substances like cardamom, cloves, refreshes the mouth and enhance digestion. Tobacco and tobacco preparations should be strictly avoided.
It is highly beneficial to massage whole body including scalp with oil every day to prevent dryness of body and stiffness of joints due to ageing in elderly. For massaging,tila taila (gingelly oil),sarsapa taila ( mustard oil),narikela taila (coconut oil) or any medicated oils like Narayana taila may be used. Oil massage ensures softness and unctuousness of skin,free movement of joints and muscles; renders nourishment, improces peripheral circulation and eliminates metabolic wastes.
Regular exercise builds up stamina and resistance against disease, clears the channels of body (srotas) and increases the blood circulation and efficiency of vital organs, promotes appetite and digestion and prevents obesity. Daily walking is the best exercise that can be advised to old people. Before starting any exercise programe consult with consultant physician.
Bathing improves enthusiasm, strength, appetite, span of life and removes sweat and other impurities from the body. After bath, one should wear clean clothes and smear the body with natural perfumes. One should have regular shaving, haircut, clipping of nails etc.
Person should avoid extra marital sexual relationship and sexual intercourse with a woman during her menses, pregnancy, within one and half month after delivery, devoid of passion, older than one and suffering from disease to prevent Dhatu ksaya in elderly.