The Vri-dha (old) awastha (stage): This stage of life is marked by Vata and is divided into sub stages – two ashrams Vanprastha and Sanyaas. In the first stage, there is a gradual depletion of Pitta and a gradual increase of Vata. In the second stage, very little Pitta remains and Vata gets prominence. The first stage has some drive left from the contribution from Pitta, the digestive fire is moderately active and the intelligence levels are fair. But the physical stamina starts getting lesser as degeneration sets in all the systems slowly due to Vata. However, we can definitely help this with the proper interventions in the form of diet, lifestyle, and rasayanas, or rejuvenators.
Because we are slowing down at this time of life, the person tends to take a back seat and gives more responsibility to the successors he or she has mentored in business. The strict adherence to daily and seasonal regimens becomes all the more important to promote health and ward off diseases. The lifestyle diseases emerge at this stage. The use of tonics and rejuvenators is very effective. Moderate exercise gives gratifying results. It’s the right time to indulge in social work as we have both the time to spare and the wisdom to guide others. A light well balanced, unctuous (or moist), a diet with a slight reduction in quantities is advocated. Sex is to be limited.
The second sub-stage is marked by a dominance of Vata and a depleted Kapha and Pitta. The digestive fire is unpredictable, generally weak, the skin becomes dry and so do the secretions like saliva, gastric juices, unctuous secretion of eyes, and tears. So there is difficulty in swallowing, loss of appetite, and dry eyes. The hearing, vision, and mental faculties also deteriorate. In such a stage it’s easy to become cranky, depressed, and forgetful. So the Indian philosophers advocated Vanprastha whereby instead of indulging in worldly affairs and exposing yourself to various stimuli, we now take the time to contemplate and concentrate on self-realization.
From the Ayurvedic point of view, at this stage, we should try to rein in the aggravated Vata by the use of oil and other fats, both internally with foods, and externally with a massage. The fats used in food should be used according to the digestive capacity and the conditions of the blood vessels (cholesterol and atherosclerosis). In the case of atherosclerosis, oils like olive, almond, and sesame are recommended. Sunflower, safflower, and corn oils are not recommended as their source has a Vata component so they are vata aggravating.
Foods should be soft and easily digestible. Milk and nuts can be good for older people because they nourish the depleted Kapha, tame Vata and thereby help with overcoming insomnia and forgetfulness. The use of Rasaynas like Chya-van-prash – a herbal jam having rejuvenating herbs in the base of Amla Is very beneficial. The use of stimulants in any form is counterproductive and should be avoideded. Light exercise of joints and extremities with the help of aid is recommended. A vata pacifying diet and lifestyle along with adherence to seasonal and daily regimens is essential to maintaining a state of well-being in this stage of life.