A 103-Year-Old Holistic Medicine Specialist Shares the ‘5 Ls’ of Her 10-Year Longevity Plan

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When you think of boosting your longevity, what comes to mind may be getting enough exercise and eating nutritious foods. But you'd be missing a key element of prolonging your lifespan (and your healthspan, or how long you can live in good health) if you skipped prioritizing social connection, which research finds can play a key role in supporting physiological well-being1. According to holistic medicine specialist Gladys McGarey, MD, MDH (aka “The Mother of Holistic Medicine”), one piece of garnering more connection in your life—and boosting your longevity in the process—is living your purpose.

Now 103 years old, Dr. McGarey says she's still focused on optimizing her daily routine for what she calls her “10-year plan” for longevity and fulfillment. Yes, she's continuing to practice the longevity advice she's long preached as a holistic medicine specialist and the author of The Well-Lived Life: A 102-Year-Old Doctor's Six Secrets to Health and Happiness at Every Age (June 2023). For instance, she starts every day with a gut-healthy breakfast of Raisin Bran and prunes, and she works in regular movement with daily rides on her red tricycle, Red Bird, whenever weather permits.

But lately she's turned her focus toward her connections. Since her book was published, Dr. McGarey has spent her days connecting with people all over the world to talk about longevity. She says these conversations, which take place via Zoom and phone, are particularly nourishing and affirming because they're a means for her to live her purpose of educating others on how they may increase their own longevity.

"The more we connect with our true inner purpose, the longer and healthier we are likely to live." —Gladys McGarey, MD, MDH, holistic medicine doctor

But connecting deeply with herself—and making sure she's living each day in alignment with her purpose—is a key part of this, too. "That's when my juice really starts flowing," says Dr. McGarey. To this end, moments of introspection and reflection are included in Dr. McGarey's daily routine. Her day starts with prayer and includes time for her to write in her dream journal, which she says allows her to tap into her emotions and analyze her thoughts and feelings.

To ensure her daily activities keep her connected to her purpose, she orients her day around a framework she calls "the five Ls:" life, love, laughter, labor, and listening. "These five Ls help to structure what I'm doing, and the center of it all is love," she says. Below, she breaks them down and shares how they help her continue living her purpose.

A 103-year-old holistic medicine specialist's '5 Ls' for living your purpose and boosting longevity

1. Life

Recognizing that we all have potential is the root of this, says Dr. McGarey. She likens our lives to seeds: We may water and feed them, or they can sit lifeless in the ground without any nourishment. Your actions and the love and care you put into them are what can help tap your potential in life, she says.

2. Love

To Dr. McGarey, love is the nourishment that each of the other "Ls" requires—without it, you're just going through the motions. "Life and love have to be together because they can't function without each other," she says. "If love isn't the activating factor, life dies because it gets stuck."

Living your life in a loving way can also help you build and maintain supportive bonds with yourself and others that can be both pleasurable and protective for your mental health2; love and affection feed these relationships and, in turn, your level of resilience, which can help you navigate the challenges life presents to you.

3. Laughter

On its own, laughter can be used for mockery or be nefarious in nature (think about the wicked, evil laughter of a villain). It requires warmth and love to turn into something that can promote bonding, says Dr. McGarey. "Laughter is energy, and when used with love, it becomes happiness and joy," she says. Humor can support your well-being by lightening the mood, providing fodder for connections, and just being plain fun.

4. Labor

If you spend all your days working without any semblance of love or laughter, labor becomes "drudgery," says Dr. McGarey. "It's love that transforms work into bliss," she says, with the recommendation to find something you can do (whether for work or in a volunteer capacity) that lights you up inside. "It's why I do what I do," she says, "and why we work harder to make our bliss come true versus when we are dragging ourselves through [labor]."

5. Listening

If you hear what a person is saying without actually listening, you miss an opportunity for connection. Listening with love and empathy is key, says Dr. McGarey. It's a way for us to learn from and understand others, which enriches our lives by both deepening our social bonds and allowing us to gain new perspectives.

Another piece of this is listening to yourself; the more you do so, the more you'll be able to build your self-esteem and self-confidence and trust your personal judgment.

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
  1. Yang, Yang Claire et al. “Social relationships and physiological determinants of longevity across the human life span.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America vol. 113,3 (2016): 578-83. doi:10.1073/pnas.1511085112
  2. Teo, Alan R et al. “Social relationships and depression: ten-year follow-up from a nationally representative study.” PloS one vol. 8,4 e62396. 30 Apr. 2013, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0062396

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