On this episode you'll hear my interview with entrepreneur, author and fitness enthusiast Jack Lowe. I reached out to Jack after reading an article on the Ageist media site. I'm fascinated by his successful business career and what Jack calls his "end of career story. " At almost 80 years old, he's on a mission to change the idea of aging.
Early this year, Jack Lowe released his new book Get Fit for Life: My Journey with Fitness, Health and Aging. You can find the book on Amazon.
With a lifelong passion for health, Jack was the driving force for the Fit for Life Foundation. The organization was founded in 2020 to support lifelong fitness and health.
Fit for Life Foundation Bio:
Jack Lowe, Champion of the Fit for Life philosophy
A successful entrepreneur and all-round athlete, Jack has been involved in amateur and professional sports for decades. He has climbed the highest peaks in Europe, Africa, and South America, and traveled 22 countries by bike. He has sponsored cycling teams and helped lead basketball camps for youth in Switzerland. He has also participated for many years in a Geneva-based study on how aging athletes perform physically over time.
Jack’s business and charitable activities span several continents, from Asia to Europe and North America. He is President of Lomastar SA, a private equity fund advisory firm in Nyon, Switzerland, and the former Chairman of the VNH Foundation, a Zurich-based charity focusing on disabled children in Vietnam. From 2010 to 2014, he served as Chairman of Azure Partners, a Swiss asset advisory firm specializing in microfinance funds. From 2004 to 2008, he was CEO of Blue Orchard Finance SA, the largest private microfinance lender in the world with assets in excess of 1 billion. As an entrepreneur, he has created a half-dozen businesses in his 50-year career.
Jack lives in Switzerland, and he is fluent in English, French, Japanese and Spanish. He is 79 years old, and is married with three adult children and seven grandchildren.
Welcome to Stories of Change and Creativity. I'm Judy Oskam. I'm a university professor, Gallup Strengths Coach and Tiny Habits Coach. This podcast features purpose-driven individuals who inspire, motivate and educate. On this episode, I interview entrepreneur, author and fitness enthusiast Jack Lowe. Over the past 50 years, he created a number of businesses in various industries, from restaurants to finance. Jack holds an MBA from Stanford University, and he's always been an all-around athlete.:
During 2020 he wrote and published the book, Get Fit for Life: My Journey with Fitness, Health and Aging. Jack Lowe is on a personal mission to change the idea of aging. He is the driving force behind the Fit for Life Foundation. The foundation supports healthy aging and independent mobility of older people in aging societies worldwide. This organization was started in 2020 and provides grants to innovative projects that promote fitness. It's hard to believe when you meet him, but Jack will be 80 years old in December, 2021. He calls himself a lifelong practitioner rather than a certified expert. But in my eyes, he's really a living example of how an active lifestyle...healthy lifestyle really does work. I interviewed Jack via zoom from his home near Geneva, Switzerland. We talked about the concept of aging, exercise tips, what foods to avoid, the importance of social connection and change. I hope you enjoy our conversation.Judy Oskam :
Um, the title of this podcast is stories of change and creativity, and I enjoy your approach to change. How have you always had that sense of adventure and that curiosity?Jack Lowe:
I think the sense of adventure probably, but I didn't discover it until I was able to go as the first exchange student from the U S to Turkey in 1959. And this was a life-changing event, which made me realize that everything I'd never seen already, I wanted to see everything I'd never done. I wanted to do. And so this kind of kicked off the kind of lifestyle that, that I've had ever since. You know, I've worked in eight different countries, I've learned all kinds of languages. I had to adjust to these cultural sort of differences. And I know a lot of people say, well, it wasn't easy, but was it, it was easy because I wanted to do it when you desire something and you want to do it, you can do it.Judy Oskam :
You've always been involved with athletics and sports, and that leads us to your new venture, uh, which is your fit for life foundation. How did you get involved with that and why?Jack Lowe:
Well, this, this is a sort of an end of career story. All my life I've been interested in sports. I've done almost every sport you can imagine. Not always well. And as I say in my book, I did every sport, but I was never a champion of anything, you know, but, I liked, where I felt when I was in shape. I liked learning new sports and seeing if I could get good at them. And I knew nothing about them to start with. Uh, so, my life was filled with these sort of things. And I found out that you could also travel to a lot of countries on a bicycle. And then on a bicycle, you see a lot more, you learn a lot more than driving a car. So I set up a bicycle group and we went to 22 different countries on our bicycle. So we, you know, it takes a little imagination and t he desire, but also, not an attitude like, well, it was so difficult and you should know what I overcame. I didn't have to overcome much of anything. I just did what I wanted.Judy Oskam :
I love how in, in the book you talk about this and this is what really attracted me to, to do an interview with you and track you down. And I appreciate you talking with me. I liked your focus on, we need to change our thinking about age. Can you talk about that? Because I agree. I totally agree.Jack Lowe:
Well, I think, there are several reasons. Number one, when you get older, you have to get used to the fact that you lose some of your abilities, whether it's in your, you know, thinking, area, whether it's in your bodily abilities and so on because of the loss of hormones and the general aging of the body. A lot of people just accept that as inevitable, without looking at what you can do to forestall a lot of this. And, you know, uh, I say to people, we are all living longer because we have better surgery. We have pharmaceutical products that help us, but are we really living better? Um, I'm not so sure. And I'm not so sure that, surgery and pharmaceutical products, although we all had them and benefited from them or the way to live a really long life, because you may end up with what we call a non-communicable disease. These are diseases that come from sedentary, living and sedentary living, which I've never known because of sports. So I can't witness, you know, that that's bad for you, but I see a lot of people around me where it's pretty bad for them. So my idea is that we need to recognize that we have to overcome, these tendencies to comorbidities, which have killed so many people in the COVID and we've just gone through, but also just in general to let people live a longer life, which still have any way, but a better one, a wellness, activity, having friends, being able to lift up your children or your great-grandchildren or your grandchildren, whatever age you are doing that all of your life and having those pleasures is a part of being physically fit as well. And having pleasure and having a sense of adventure l asts as long as possible.Judy Oskam :
Well, why, why do you think we have this challenge? And I love how you sort of break down in your book, the noncommunicable diseases. What exactly do you mean by that? And is that a, is that a medical term? Is that, is that terminology?Jack Lowe:
It's, it's a new, it's a new terminology because it defines those diseases that come from basically carrying around too much weight, uh, not getting any exercise and not eating properly. That's those three things, Hippocrates even talked about them thousands of years ago, that these are the keys to, to a long life and a healthy life, too. And of course not everybody is ready to make these changes in their lifestyle, especially once one has become extremely overweight or one has a, you know, has to have meat, three times a day or other habits that have to be broken. But I think we have to make an effort, to recognize for ourselves that what we're looking for, we don't have to make a lot of enormous changes to get there, or take a lot of pharmaceutical products to get there. We can do it. Uh, if we undertake a program which takes care of those three things, don't gain any weight, try to lose the excess eat properly and don't eat too much. So have a view of how you can use up your time, not sitting in front of the television, but doing other things that are fun to do, including gardening, including, chores around the house, including being a, fix it up chappy in the house and so on. So this is, this is what our foundation is really trying to do to get things started, find the right kinds of organizations on the ground, give them help financial help to expand their activity and get people involved to just take care of this, a three part problem, which also includes keeping your friendships and includes keeping your mental acuity if you can. And so on. So it's, it's a bit of an effort, but it's an effort where I can tell you satisfaction is everywhere as opposed to dissatisfaction.Judy Oskam :
Well, and you've actually experienced this and you've lived it. How have you gone through your life and what are some of your routines that you can share with our listeners that they might pick up on and adopt? Possibly?Jack Lowe:
Yes. Okay. Well, in my life, I didn't really focus on not getting a n on-communicable disease because this didn't exist in my youth. I mean, people were pretty slim. People were, lots of people were doing sport, and you didn't have the money to buy, you know, meet three times a day. So there was not a kind of, what I would call a sort of a n epidemic of, of these kinds of diseases, which are the ones that are, are, are the most lethal for older people. U h, and so, so I kind of by accident by loving sports and, you know, participating in teams, cycling teams, football teams, things like this, I just was doing what I like to do. However, I could always see if I went to the doctor and got checked up, I'll be 80 years old this year. And, uh, never had any, anything that I caught. I had a lot of things fixed up or had accidents when they were my fault. So I can't blame it on sitting around and watching TV, but fundamentally, um, I think the key for me was just recognizing that I always felt good and I felt satisfied that I hadn't left something behind that I would have liked to have known about or done. This is the mental side of, you know, having control. But to give you an idea of what I do now, I do 45 minutes of exercise every morning, which is mainly stretching a lot of stuff from Pilates and from yoga. Then three times a week, I do aerobic training either on a bicycle or by, with Nordic walking. And I do, I do, muscle training three times a week to keep the, the hormones that, that allow us to keep our muscles hormones over time. Of course, we'll all lose them over time, little by little, but it, it turns, it turns the thing on its head and it's very slow loss of muscle mass muscle mass, for example, disappearing is one of the problems. Why, why so many old people fall? And when they fall, they have accidents. They don't have enough muscles and hand and eye, uh, muscle coordination to keep their balance all the time. So there are lots of things you can do take some time. I think if I take all the things that I do during the week, it's probably eight hours or nine hours, but spread through seven days of the week. So it isn't a lot every day, if you put an average on the table.Judy Oskam :
Well, and, and I, I appreciated how you explained in your book that when you still wake up, you still feel, you still feel a little pain, but then you work your way out of it. Can you, can you address that because it's not like you're just living in this, in this pain-free world for some reason.Jack Lowe:
No, it's, it's, uh, I think, uh, a lot of us, disregard the importance of a good night's sleep. And, and I do have a chapter on that in the book, the reason being that, we're preoccupied by things that we haven't finished or preoccupied by something we weren't able to do that we wanted to do. And so on. So it's a little bit of an effort to, to go to sleep, go through the deep sleep portion of the night and sleep until the morning. And I think it's a, it's a habit you can get into if you do it always at the same time, go to bed, for example, at 11 and get up at seven. And the seven, eight hour requirement is what researchers know is what you need to get a rehabilitation of your body from whatever it's had to do the day before. But at our age, you know, we have our aches and pains and, and that's why, morning exercises are important. And that's why morning exercises include a lot of, um, getting supple, getting flexible, uh, uh, kind of getting the kinks out of the body. And quite frankly, if you do that every morning, you don't have any pain. At least I don't, uh, and depends on what you're working for, but, uh, that's the way to, to rid that early morning just got out of bed pain, uh, aggress,Judy Oskam :
Well, and a lot of us for the last 15, 18 months have been doing a lot of remote work. And that means a lot of sedentary sitting. Yeah. What do you recommend on that? I know you, you talked about that in the book as well.Jack Lowe:
Yeah. I, I believe in the standup desk and in my various enterprises, I encourage people to use a stand-up desk. These, these are available. I don't want to advertise for IKEA, but the IKEA sells desks that are wooden desk just perfectly fine, not luxury at all, uh, with little motors that will move the desk up and down. And there are lots of other suppliers of these desks, but that's the easiest place to go to buy them that, and they work. Uh, now you can't stand up all day long, uh, if you're working for eight hours during the day, so you need to occasionally sit down. I usually what I do, if I do telephone calls, I sit down, but I'm working on the computer. I stand up. And if I'm in a room of, sort of a meeting room conference room, typically I would, I would, most of the time, if I'm talking, I stand up because getting up and down, the whole process of that is really good for your body. A nd, and to sit a chair too long, obviously isn't good to stand too long. I t's probably not that bad for you, but, just for circulation of blood, it's better to be moving around from time to time.Judy Oskam :
Well, and then, what about nutrition then you had mentioned earlier about, uh, red meat. What, what do you recommend, I know you talk about it in the book as well. What do you, what do you, what is your nutritional plan for the day?Jack Lowe:
Okay. I, I say this not being an expert, but, um, we have tied ourselves up with one of the world's best research firms on nutrition. And basically I think the way they start the discussion as a way I would start it. They tell you what you should not eat rather than what you should eat. And it's quite a short list of things. And you know, it's the basic things that doctors always tell you. Not a lot of fried foods, just enough carbohydrates don't do without carbohydrates, who is, you need those, but, you know, the right amount, the right amount of everything, by the way. And very your, your, uh, type of meal or the daytime, for example, most of us in Switzerland, we eat, which got something called muesli, which is a mixture of oats and nuts and various other things. Some people eat i t with yogurt. Some people eat it with milk, u h, you know, but, u m, those things are not really, really important. Lunches, ypically should be reasonably light as dinners should be me dium-sized i f you will. And the Mediterranean diet type approach to dinner is what we would think is the right way to eat. And of course, the mixture of fruits and vegetables, way more than what the normal person ne eds, r eally helps. Um, b ut we have a lot of sample menus th at, yo u k n ow, we give to people, they can make a choice, but mainly you want to avoid, u h, s ugars. You want to avoid too much salt and you want to avoid, u h, t oo many sweet products that have to do with the sweet desserts as we all li ke t o a s children. We li ke t o j ust as much as adults.Judy Oskam :
Right. Great, good advice. Well, and, and, and that's your foundation? What, what plans do you have for the foundation and what do you want to see happen with that? I know be a catalyst for other organizations around the world, but how,Jack Lowe:
Okay. basically we have a three-pronged approach. We see our mission as trying to get people into a healthy lifestyle as early as possible, focusing really on older people, because whatever you acquire as a problem, because of though your lifestyle early in life, you'll carry, and it'll be worse in later life. So, we're opening activities, or we're helping activities that start with people about 40 to 45. We look for organizations through what we call our award program that do the best job in that field of getting people to start doing exercise, eating properly, lose weight, and have the social interactions that they need to fill them. This happy lifestyle model that we have, these organizations are all over the world and their organization on the ground. And that's what I really believe in is not just telling people what to do, but finding them places they can go to get to do it. So our award program, it looks for it three to six of those organizations every year with proposals, they give to us for what they were going to, they will do with the money that we give them. We analyze these organizations due diligence on these organizations. We make sure that they can calculate it right. And we try and pick the best three or six out of this year. We had believe it or not 600 proposals. And so we winnowed that down to 50 in the end, all of which are really outstanding. And then you'd pick the real winners because that's when the emotion gets involved, they fill all the, all the criteria. Uh, but then you have to say, who would I like to work with and watch grow? And we give them grants for over three years mainly to expand their activity, either across borders or within the country that they're operating in. Governments will no longer be able to support all of the people they have to support in old age. So we have to do something to give the workplace a longer period, enough time with older people who are still working in the workplace, contributing something and contributing to their pension funds. Um, so that's one objective. Another objective is not to have so many costs, that the state has to pay for like old folks homes. Um, you know, a lot of foundations build them and they equip them and then the state subsidizes them so they can continue you operating. And then the other thing that, should be a money saver for, for governments is, uh, you can save on not having to treat people with very costly pharmaceutical products in the long term or treating them and just paying the medical bills that will grow up. So those are the main objectives, and we need the help of other people to do that. But, I, I'm sort of trying to be the spokesman for getting this change as a change maker to get it done, uh, and get it done over a reasonable period of time, getting enough people involved so that we can really have an impact.Judy Oskam :
Well and it sounds like you're using your entrepreneurial skills that you have worked on for your entire career to take such a business and strategic approach to this. Is that correct?Jack Lowe:
That's what I'm trying to do, whether I'll succeed is another question we'll know in a few years, but no, that's what I'm trying to do, because I think these business talents, um, really help you organize things be efficient. And when you go down the wrong road to discover it, change your strategy, try something else. And by trial and error, you'll, you'll find a way to make it happen.Judy Oskam :
Well and personally, I, you know, I'm a, I'm a Gallup strengths coach, so I'm always trying to help people live in their strengths and lean into their strengths. What would you consider one of your top strengths?Jack Lowe:
Perseverance, perseverance, uh, never give up. I think it would be almost impossible to make me give up. Although I did, did have two companies that didn't work and I gave them up, but, I had to be taken, you know, to the last minute to make that decision. No, I think that's the key. And, and you really have to believe in what you're doing to have this never give up idea, and believe you will succeed. And this is of course, transmissible to third parties. When you talk to them about, would you like to do a partnership with us in this area, then they have to know you really believe in what you're doing and that if you promise them something, you will fulfill the promise.Judy Oskam :
Well, but this mission that you are, are now involved with in starting is really transformational for anyone who gets involved, correct.Jack Lowe:
Well, I, I hope it's going to be that. Of course, lots of people are already sick and, you know, you can improve the situation to some degree, but not eradicated. But if you, if someone at age 40 or 45, 50 gets into a program like this, and it has to be a personal program where you have the discipline and to do these things every day at the same hour, just like sleeping at the same hours during the night, do you have the discipline to do that? I really believe it can be transformational for those people when they get older, but even older people, when I do cycling, u h, I have a group, a cycling group, and there's a 94 year old man in my cycling group. And you should see him go u phill, you know? So it does prove that it's not impossible, to, to stay in shape and to profit from it. And, u h, h e, when he rides in a group, that's h is, those are his best friends, including the younger ones. And, a nd that's the one time I feel young again when I'm with a 94 year old man.Judy Oskam :
Well, but the social aspect too, you've talked about that too. The social aspect is really important, right? Why, why is that?Jack Lowe:
Well, I think it's because a lot of people are worried about going into some kind of program because maybe they won't look as good at doing exercises and so on as the other person, or maybe they feel that they will have to do things alone as well at home, they can't do four courses or seven courses a week and that's expensive and so on. So, uh, would they have the discipline to do that? The more people they know who are doing the same things or more or less the same things, the more they're likely to say, well, why don't we get together at such and such a place, uh, where we're members of the gym and we'll work out together, maybe you can put three or four people together, and then afterwards they go and have coffee and then they get to know each other and then friendships bloom from this because of an, of a CA a shared interest. So I think it's a very strong motivator. And of course, some people are just naturally friendly and if that's the case, once they get into a group like that, they recruit other people to join up. And you can see it in the clubs where people play tennis. You could see it in places where people play golf, uh, uh, in the end, uh, the same group once they're used to it. And the habit is formed, they play together.Judy Oskam :
So forming the habit and there's that accountability as well.Jack Lowe:
Correct? Correct. But of course, we we're all prejudice in the judgment of our, ourselves and our performance. Uh, on the other hand, I've had a lot of people say to me, well, you know, I've been doing this routine for the last month. It's really funny. My back doesn't hurt anymore. You know, I said, well, there's a reason. And I didn't feel it right away, but this morning I realized my back doesn't hurt anymore. So they could..,they are able to make a measurement of some kind of where they're going and where they've come from, which is the important part.Judy Oskam :
Exactly. Well, and can, can you give any sort of, a push for someone who might be on the edge thinking of they really would like to do more and be healthier? Can, can you give them any, any push or strategy that would maybe push them off the ledge and get them into a healthier lifestyle?Jack Lowe:
Well, I think, I think one of the things they can do is go to a very professionally run gym and say, I'd like to have a coach for the first three sessions or four sessions. And most of these coaches are well-trained either by the company that has the gym or buy it by, you know, they have professional schools, at least we have them in Switzerland to train coaches for gym and gymnastics and so on. So I think that's one way. Another way is to look around for programs, you can find them on the net, which deal with these problems of, of elder persons, ongoing health. And, and you will find groups and associations. We have one in Switzerland called pro S inek, which is all over Switzerland and every city o f over 20 or 25,000 people. And, u h, they have gym classes, they have dancing classes, they have a card tables, y ou can play cards w ith y our friends. You can have a coffee bar and have a coffee. So those, those places exist and have a lot of participation. Switzerland has one of the highest participation of older people and things like this. So that's another way. And, and, I think the third way is to say to oneself, okay. U h, I'll find a, u h, some kind of a gym course on the n ets. I'll sign up for it. U m, it's n ot just like video conferences, and some of them are very professional. They're usually professional companies. They charge money, but there are some, not-for-profit companies that c harge, or, or even foundations t hat charge a little bit of money for your hooking up and so on. But, it's, it's not a fortune. And since therefore, not-for-profit, they're not trying to make a profit on you. So those as well, u m, I think a re, are useful. And I've done a few of those just to see how they work. And some of them are very professional and obviously people, you know, they can't be seen themselves, whether they're really doing what they're told to do. R ight. They a re really doing it. They'll see the difference,Judy Oskam :
But just get started, just make a start.Jack Lowe:
But getting started and in a group is the best way, because then you will disappoint them if you drop out and to that social connection.Judy Oskam :
Right. Right, right. I love that. Well, let's look ahead five years Jack. And see, what, what, what do you hope for the foundation in five years? What do you hope has, has happened to the idea of aging?Jack Lowe:
Uh, I think we have to change the nature of the way people feel about taking retirement. If you feel like working until you drop, you should be able to do that and not have to retire and not feel like you have to retire. Number one, number two, I think that we have to change the way people look at themselves as capable or not capable of doing what people historically have not done after age 65. You, you don't do anything. You have a pension and you, you know, you, you see your friends occasionally for coffee or something, but you don't do anything that's really active. And of course, part of this comes from many people living in apartments, as opposed to houses, where they had gardens and had to take care of mowing the lawn and so on. So I think that, that can change even for people in apartments, if in fact, uh, this sporting side and the diet can be followed, which they can. But I think that the major thing we have to do is, is still people that as older people, you are still very valid and you can do a lot of things, and everybody should read. I'm going to make a pitch for a book. There's a doctor at the university of California hospital named Louise Aronson, Dr. Louise Aronson, who has written the only bestseller ever written in the medical nonfiction category. It's called Elderhood. It's a must reading because there, she talks about these very things. And she talks about them from example, she goes to the bit, like I give examples from my book about real human beings and what they were able to do in spite of thinking, perhaps at the start, they couldn't do it. And it's very inspiring book. And, as I say to people, we're inevitably going to live longer, and that is, is a call to action for us because why live longer, if not b etter?Judy Oskam :
I love it. And on that note, Jack Lowe, thank you for joining me today. I so appreciate your insight. And again, the book get fit for life. My journey with fitness, health, and aging, and the foundation fit for life foundation. Check it out online. Thank you for joining me, Jack.Jack Lowe:
Thank you, Judy. Have a nice day. Bye-bye thank you.Judy Oskam :
Check out our show notes for more information about this episode, you can find this podcast on any of your favorite streaming platforms. And remember if you have a story to tell or know someone who does reach out to me at Judyoskam.com. Thanks for listening.