Inspiring Story: Dr. Gladys McGarey, 102

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In her newest book, THE WELL-LIVED LIFE: A 102-Year-Old Doctor’s Six Secrets to Health and Happiness at Every Age, Dr.Gladys McGarey shares a philosophy for living life to the fullest that has healed thousands of her patients and that has guided her own life for over a century.  

We caught up with the still-consulting doctor, pioneer of the alternative medicine movement and co-founder of the American Holistic Medical Association about her new book and what she means when she tell people to “use your juice wildly.”  

In your words, what is “the juice” in life and why do we need it? 

Our juice is our essence. It’s what makes us human. The issue is in finding out what our own juice is – what we came here to do, our niche. There is no time to stop looking for it and you may have to really dig. Once we find that, then life makes sense. 

Holding back doesn’t work, because life doesn’t hold back.

The lovely thing is that we can use our juice wildly. We don’t need to conserve our energy; we need to direct it wisely. Holding back doesn’t work, because life doesn’t hold back. Life’s energy cannot be saved, it has to be used. 

Tell me about your “five Ls” – they seem to be foundational to a lot of your writing. 

The five Ls are life, love, laughter, labor and listening. Love activates and transforms the other four Ls. Consider life. Without love, life is like a little seed. It can be buried for thousands of years, dormant, but then love activates it and makes it grow. Life needs love to grow. Laughter, the third L, is also transformed by love. Without love, laughter is cruel, but with love it becomes joyful. The fourth L is labor. Without love, labor is drudgery, but with love it becomes bliss – the pleasure of doing something not because you have to, but just for the sake of doing it. The fifth L is listening. Without love, listening is empty silence – we may hear, but we don’t really get it. With love, listening becomes understanding.  

The 5 Ls form a basis to my work because they demonstrate the transformative power of love. Love changes things from something empty and negative, or at least neutral, to something full and positive.  

How has the change in medicine over the last 60 years affected you?  

I went to medical school during World War II. At that time, everything was about the war; it seemed like the whole culture was focused on fighting and conquering. My medical training seemed to have the same aim: to root out an enemy force from the body, kill it, and emerge victorious. I had different ideas, and through the 50s and 60s I started to meet with early pioneers in Western Medicine who shared my views. People increasingly started talking about making peace, finding reconciliation and understanding, which are all key factors I brought to my medical practice.  

It’s been incredibly validating to witness holistic medicine gain credibility, as well as witness women practitioners become the norm. To understand human health, we need to listen to many voices, and I’m so blessed that mine was eventually heard.  

Senior Planet’s motto is “Aging with Attitude” – what does aging with attitude mean to you? 

It means having a purpose in life.  

The nice thing is that you’re not alone in this. We’re all in this together. It’s like a big jigsaw puzzle – you are one piece of the puzzle, no one else can fit that spot. 

Pam Hugi is Senior Planet’s Community and Advocacy Manager. Based in Brooklyn, she is a contributing writer for this site.

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