Perhaps two of the greatest human achievements to have occurred, particularly in the last two centuries, are the increase in human populations worldwide and the extension of human longevity. Never in the human history have so many humans lived longer. Today we are seeing more and more number of people living up to 70 years, 80 years, 90 years and beyond. According to World Health Organization (WHO), the number of older persons is expected to quadruple in next 50 years.

But ageing is a dual edged sword. On one hand, we gain from the tremendous experiences of our senior citizens, but on the other hand, they suffer not only from increasing medical problems, but also from social, psychological and ethical issues.  There are many myths about ageingOld age is a diseaseOld age always brings memory problemsElderly are similar in the decline of their health statusOld people are powerlessMost disabilities in old age are universal or inevitable or irreparable.

But ageing makes an individual, sensitive to certain conditions. Common problems faced by senior citizens include:

• Multiple and Frequent acute and chronic health problems like Diabetes, High blood pressure, asthma, heart problems, prostate problems, etc
• On multiple medications (typically more than 5 in a day)
• Memory problems 
• Decreased mobility and Falls 
• Sleep problems 
• Loss of appetite and Malnutrition 
• Loss of urine control 
• Difficulty with bowel movements 
• Depression and other mood disorders 
• Decrease in ability to perform their daily activities like getting up from bed, going to toilet, having a bath, changing clothes, eating their food, managing their household, finances and even difficulty taking their own medications 
• Increasing dependence on their family member and caregivers to take care of them             

The specialty of Geriatric Medicine focuses on healthcare of elderly (senior citizens 60 years) with goal of promoting health by preventing and treating diseases and disabilities in elderly. A geriatrician is a physician who specializes in the senior citizen’s healthcare. They deal with diseases seen in Internal Medicine in elderly people and provide comprehensive medical services towards the common health-related issues common in our ageing population. They are also experts in optimizing or decreasing the number of medications taken by senior citizens.

Instead of treating each of the many medical conditions separately in elderly, geriatricians focus specifically on those conditions that affect patient’s functional status, keeping in mind the goal of improving functionality and providing the best quality of life.  The elderly (60 years of age and above) should seek help of a Geriatrician as early as possible if they have any of the below mentioned problems:
• Are you having multiple chronic medical conditions like Diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, joint problems or taking multiple medications?
• Are you suffering from frequent acute health related problems?  
• Are you forgetting things more often than in the past 6 months?      
• Are you having difficulty walking or feeling dizzy or had a fall in past 1 year? 
• Are you having unintended weight loss or loss of appetite
• Are you having difficulty falling asleep on most days of the week? 
• Are you suffering from change in bowel habits or having urinary problems
• Are you experiencing decrease in your ability to do your daily activities or increasing dependence on others?     

Our specialist at Doctors Planet

Dr. Sriniwas B. Thakur 
M.D. Geriatric Medicine (AIIMS, New Delhi)
Elderly Care Specialist Physician and Intensivist