Geriatricians now want to take a harder look at active ageing as opposed to helping senior citizens manage lifestyle diseases.

A balanced diet containing sufficient amounts of protein, carbohydrates and providing an adequate number of calories is necessary for a healthy life. Often, food habits take a hit when an elderly person must consider a range of issues including economic soundness and familial support, experts said.

But geriatricians are now falling back on research done world over both on animals and humans, and studies observing elderly people who remain healthy for years, to understand what they are doing right.

“Research in geriatrics worldwide is about prolonged life. Studies in mice and monkeys have found that calorie restriction could slow down the ageing process,” says B. Krishnaswamy, head of geriatrics at Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital.

“Studies done in Kerala among those over 90 years of age have shown that they did not overeat during their adult years and during their middle age. Most of them are slender. It is natural that the less obese you are the lower the incidence of non-communicable diseases.”

Data collected from patients coming to GH has also found that those who are over 80 or 90 years of age and leading an active life, are “surprisingly not obese and have maintained good dietary habits from childhood.”

A fortnight ago, at a programme held at Sri Ramachandra University, the importance of traditional foods was discussed at length. The emphasis at that programme was the medicinal properties of the various traditionally-used food grains and spices instead of processed food. A study done by Jadhavpur University in Kolkata has found that natural spices could delay the onset of Parkinson’s disease.

“We have now found that overuse of processed food leads to a rise in polycystic ovarian disease and anaemia. Both can be easily prevented during the reproductive age with a proper diet. Functional food keeps cells active, delaying the onset of cardiovascular diseases, obesity and diabetes,” says D. Chanmudeeswari, principal, faculty of pharmacy, Sri Ramachandra University.

In a few months, GH will start an active ageing clinic and provide a range of services including yoga and meditation. Doctors propose to undertake extensive studies on the syndrome of ageing, says Dr. Krishnaswamy.

To remain alert and active beyond the age of 80, a balanced diet is key, several studies have found