Jerusalem dentist, aged 97, may be oldest in the world

Dr. Vladimi Lencovski, 97, snuck out of Romania in 1963 and immigrated to Israel.

old dentist 298.88 (photo credit: Isaac Harari)
old dentist 298.88
(photo credit: Isaac Harari)
He was a child in World War I. He has been through the horrors of the Holocaust, and then lived under Communist rule. He became eligible for senior discounts more than three decades ago. But Dr. Vladimir (Zeev) Lencovski is still open for business. The nearly 97-year-old is likely the world's oldest practicing dentist. More than six decades after he began working in his native Romania, Lencovski continues to receive patients in his small central Jerusalem clinic, where he fills cavities and does root canal work. "My hands do not shake and my legs are good so why not work?" he asks. Lencovski was born on September 15, 1910, in Romania. He survived the Holocaust despite three years working in a forced labor camp just over the Romanian border in Ukraine, first for the Germans and then fortuitously for the Romanians. After the war, he returned to Romania and began his practice as a dentist, where he worked for the next 18 years. In 1963, he immigrated to Israel, using an exit visa to France as a guise to get out of the Communist-controlled country, which, due to Arab pressure, had clamped harsh restrictions on Jewish immigration to Israel. For the next four-and-half decades, he would work as a city dentist, bringing to 62 the number of years he has served in his profession. "It is hard to believe that it has been so many years," he says. Although Lencovski says he thinks of retiring every year, so far, he has put off the move. "I really like my work. Is it better that I stay home and bore myself?" he asks. "As long as my health is good, why shouldn't I work?" The active nonagenarian begins his day at 5:30 a.m. By 7 a.m. he is out for his morning one-hour walk in a central city park near his flat, which he takes summer or winter, rain or shine. Then he walks another half-hour to work, even though he has a valid driver's license. He works in the clinic four hours a day, four days a week (a "reduced schedule," he calls it) and then takes the half-hour walk back home. He goes to bed by 9:30 p.m. After suffering two heart attacks two decades ago, he stays away from sweets, fatty and salty foods. He eats cheeses that are less than 5 percent fat, lunches on chicken or turkey (avoiding beef and steaks) and snacks on lots of fruits and vegetables. He has a beer for lunch, but otherwise does not drink alcohol. Years ago, he also survived cancer of the bowel after it was diagnosed at an early stage at Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital. His oldest patient is 80, and his youngest is 12 (the grandchild of another patient), though he notes that most patients at his second-floor walk-up clinic are seniors. His Health Ministry dental certification was one of the first hundred allocated by the state, stunning ministry doctors who recently visited his clinic on a routine city inspection. Lencovski allocates weekends to be with his five grandchildren and three great grandchildren. His son serves as the chief medical officer for the Israel Police. Naturally active, he visits his native Romania twice a year, and has a brother who lives in the US (the rest of his family perished in the Holocaust). When his brother's daughter became a pensioner, he began to think again about retiring himself, he says. But just the thought of "pacing from wall to wall" in his small city flat made him push off the idea. Health permitting, he hopes to be working at 100.