When Dr. Moises Moschkovich retired from his family practice in March, he didn’t immediately start a new hobby to keep busy, nor did he even have much of a chance to enjoy his newfound free time.

Instead, he spent about 10 days in the intensive care unit at Lake West Medical Center in Willoughby – across the street from where his practice was – being treated for and recovering from double pneumonia.

“I had to be in the hospital for the second time in my life,” said the 91-year-old Pepper Pike resident, noting that the first time was five years earlier when his cancer-stricken bladder was removed.

Moschkovich’s pulmonologist was Dr. Gary Kaplan, a colleague who said his patient’s outlook wasn’t encouraging. 

“It was very bleak,” he said. “He needed a lot of care and a lot of support. He was very weak.”

Moschkovich explained that due to the treatment and medications required to care for such an illness, it’s often the condition of the heart – not the pneumonia itself – that is the biggest concern for patients his age.

“Because of my age, it became very serious,” he said. “My level of oxygen was very low, and my heart might not have been able to take it, but it did.”

But “take it” Moschkovich did, and ironically, it was a hobby, of sorts, he started 30 years ago that helped him pull through: exercise.

Kaplan said there’s “no doubt” that Moschkovich’s workout routine made a difference in his ability to recover as well as he has.

“I think the key factor was that he was so innately strong and in such good shape before this happened that he was able to get through it,” Kaplan said. “Someone who was less fit at his age might not have made it through.”

Decision made years ago

About a year after Moschkovich was born in 1921 in Edinti, Romania, his family moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he grew up.

In 1948, he graduated with a medical degree from the Universidad de Buenos Aires, Facultad de Ciencias Medicas. At about that same time, Moschkovich married his childhood sweetheart, Rosita, to whom he stayed married for 60 years – until her death about four years ago, he said.

Following his graduation, Moschkovich spent the next 18 years practicing family medicine in Buenos Aires. However, he soon grew weary of the nearly constant political turmoil in Argentina, where he said democratically elected governments often posed no challenge to military coups. 

So, in 1970, he moved to Northeast Ohio and spent a year as a fellow at Cleveland Clinic. A year later, he opened a new family practice in Willoughby, where he served Lake County residents for more than 40 years.

Along the way, Moschkovich made a life-altering – and as it turns out, a potentially life-saving – decision: to quit smoking and start exercising.

“I started exercising on a regular basis at age 60,” he said. “I left the addiction of smoking for a new addiction: that of exercise,” he said. “I miss (exercise) if I don’t do it.”

These days, Moschkovich can be found most mornings at the Mandel Jewish Community Center. He’s been a member of the JCC since soon after it opened in Beachwood, he said.

Moschkovich spends 45 minutes to an hour making use of The J’s various exercise machines, including those that work the chest, arms, legs and lower back. He also makes use of the free weights and includes as many cardio exercises as he can.

“I do it without going over and above what my strength can take,” he said. “I’m not trying to go to the Olympics. I don’t want to create muscles, I just want to keep the tone of my muscles.”

Following his exercise, Moschkovich enjoys what he called the “best part” of his workout: spending time in the steam room and socializing in the Club J locker room.

“This keeps me going,” he said, referring to his time spent at The J. “I think I maintained my physical strength because of my exercise.”

Kaplan, who in addition to practicing medicine alongside Moschkovich is a member of The J and can work out alongside him as well, agreed. He said that “physically, (Moschkovich) is much younger” than his 91 years indicate.

“He cared for his health physically and emotionally, which is what I think carried him so well into his senior years,” he said, reiterating it likely also helped Moschkovich “survive what would’ve been a potentially lethal illness.”

While he’s certainly thankful for the part exercise has played in his recovery from pneumonia, Moschkovich maintained that he stays fit mostly because he simply takes pleasure in working out – just as he does many other things. 

“I enjoy life,” he said, smiling. “I have very much a willingness for culture, education, classical music and classical art, and I keep enjoying life at my age.” 

mbutz@cjn.org