‘I’m a 102-Year-Old Holistic Medicine Specialist, and I Still Ride My Adult Tricycle. Here Are My 6 Secrets To Staying Healthy and Active’

Photo: Getty Images/Lucy Lambriex
According to the latest stats from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, life expectancy at birth for women in the United States these days is 79.1. So when we come across those who live well beyond that age, we can’t help but wonder, How do you do it? After all, can a long life really just be genetics, or is it a concentrated lifestyle effort that lends to more years on earth?

Meet the vibrant 102-year-old Gladys McGarey, MD, MDH (aka “The Mother of Holistic Medicine”). When we heard that she still rides her adult tricycle on the regular, we knew we had to glean some longevity tips from the centenarian. We chatted with Dr. McGarey about her daily and weekly fitness and self-care routines, and the habits she believes have afforded her a life much longer than most.

The daily routine of a 102-year-old woman

“My days are pretty simple: In the mornings I stretch, say a prayer, eat a healthy high-fiber breakfast and a cup of coffee, and go about my day,” Dr. McGarey says.

After breakfast, she makes time to connect with others—and herself. “I check in with my friend Rose about my 10-year plan every morning, which helps me know which direction I’m going with my life,” she shares.

As she continues her day, Dr. McGarey makes a concentrated effort to hydrate and fuel her body with nutritious meals and plenty of rest. “At midday, I eat a healthy lunch like a salad or perhaps something heavier before taking an hour-long nap,” she shares.

And despite being over a century old, she always incorporates movement into her day. “At some point along the way, I try to get my 3,800 steps in with my walker, which I often do just walking around my home,” she says.

But Dr. McGarey doesn’t only take daily walks—she enjoys riding her ruby-red adult tricycle (appropriately named Red Bird) whenever weather permits. “I just got my tricycle for my 102nd birthday, and it’s a hoot,” she says, assuring us that she rides slowly, enjoying every minute of it. “Sure, riding the tricycle helps with balance and keeps me fit, but it’s also just a lot of fun; we have to keep having fun throughout our lives—it’s so important to do things purely for the joy of it.”

What she loves most about her tricycle is how it gets her out of her home and in sync with the natural world. “Right now the orange blossoms are in full bloom in Arizona, which brings back memories from my childhood in India,” she shares. “The spring smells so good when you have citrus trees around—so my tricycle pulls me outside and gives me a way to connect with the world around me while moving my body and enjoying being alive.”

After a day filled with mindful fitness, self-care, and fun, Dr. McGarey begins to unwind for the evening. “I eat something lighter for dinner so I don’t go to bed with a heavy stomach,” she says. “I go to bed at 8 p.m. to be sure that even if I don’t sleep—that happens less as we get older—I get plenty of rest.”

The weekly routine of a 102-year-old woman

In addition to her daily routine, Dr. McGarey schedules time weekly for self-care treatments that help her feel her best.

“I receive a full-body massage weekly to move the lymph and nourish my cells,” she says. “The touch is nourishing to my mind and soul, too—I believe everyone needs some sort of safe and comforting touch from others, whether they can afford it through bodywork or just through curling up with a loved one or a pet.”

In addition to incorporating massage into her weekly routine, Dr. McGarey receives cranial sacral therapy (another hands-on technique). “I’m also sure to hug people regularly, so I get many warm hugs throughout my week—if I’m lucky enough to hug a grandchild, even better,” she adds.

Notice a pattern here? “Just about every aspect of my routine is geared toward lining up my purpose and keeping things moving,” Dr. McGarey says. “This keeps my life force active and healthy.”

The power of routine

As is evident on Instagram and TikTok, intricate daily routines are incredibly popular. But Dr. McGarey is quick to point out: Having a routine isn’t just some trend to hop on—it’s something to build and maintain throughout life.

“Some of my routines have always been with me—for instance, I’ve been praying and eating healthily since childhood,” she says. “Others, I developed along the way: I’ve received regular massage for 50 years, and I’ve been napping since my 90s.”

If the idea of maintaining a routine for even a fraction of that time seems impossible, you might want to take a page out of Dr. McGarey’s book. “Overall, I’ve always adapted my routine to what’s possible for me, depending on where I am in my life,” she says. “When I had a house full of little children, or when I had a full-time medical practice and spent long nights attending births, I grabbed onto whatever routine I could manage and didn’t stress about it. Then, when I began to have more time to design as I please, I shifted toward a fuller routine.”

That’s the thing about developing a body-, mind-, and soul-nourishing routine: It has to be flexible. “If it’s inflexible, we miss out on something important—we stop enjoying it, and this can block our life force just as much as anything else can,” Dr. McGarey warns. “Wellness has to be a living process. I don’t bow to my routine, but I hold on to the intention to take care of myself and be responsible for my own well-being, and to do so joyfully. It’s a privilege to care for ourselves in this way.”

Six secrets to health and happiness, according to a 102-year-old woman

Dr. McGarey shares her keys to a long, happy life in her upcoming book, The Well-Lived Life, out May 2. “These secrets work for both physical and mental health because when life is flowing, health naturally follows,” she says. Here are her six big ones, below.

  1. Know your purpose. And if you don’t know it, seek it. “We have to always keep reaching for our sense of purpose, our unique contribution to the world around us that brings us joy, meaning, and what I call ‘the juice,’” she says.
  2. Be fluid. “Life is always moving, and we have to be sure to focus on the ways we’re moving with it,” she says.
  3. Love deeply. That old saying that love makes the world go round? According to Dr. McGarey, there’s truth in it. “It’s crucial to remember that love is life, and that putting our attention on love brings us health and well-being,” she says.
  4. Build community. At the end of the day, the world is so much bigger than ourselves. “We can’t forget the role that community plays in amplifying our life force,” Dr. McGarey says.
  5. There are always lessons to be learned. Some people will say that once they reach a certain age, they’re set in their ways, or there’s nothing left to learn. Dr. McGarey disagrees. “Everything that happens in our life is here to teach us something, to show us the way forward,” she says.
  6. Prioritize people, places, and things that make you feel your best. “When we invest our energy in the things that give us energy back,” says Dr. McGarey, “life force courses through us, quite literally keeping us alive.”
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