World’s Oldest Woman Lied About Her Age: Researchers

6 Jan, 2019 17:43 IST|Sakshi
Jeanne Calment (file picture)

Jeanne Calment, the oldest documented person to have lived, died in 1997, at 122. She hailed from the southern province of France in Arles, the same town in which she was born. Her death drew a lot of attention across the globe. Her age was certified by the Guinness World Records as 122. Calment holds the record of being the oldest documented person to have ever lived.

However, a Russian mathematician, Nikolay Zak, is claiming her record to be false. Zak from the Moscow Center For Continuous Mathematical Education said in a report that Calment passed away in 1997. The lady who died was actually Yvonne Calment, Jeanne's daughter, he said.

He added, the daughter has assumed her mother's identity to avoid inheritance taxes in and this happened in the 1930s. According to Zak’s claims the lady would have been 99 when she died.

The evidence submitted by Zak in a paper published recently on the portal ResearchGate is not authentic though.

According to the studies, Calment had shrunk less than an inch of her usual height by the time she was in her hundreds, significantly less than what was expected, Yvonne was also taller than Jeanne, is the basis of his argument. A passport of Jeanne in the 1930s has another color mentioned than, what she had later in life. He raised apprehensions about physical discrepancies in her forehead and chin. He even claimed that the younger Calment destroyed photographs and other family documents when she was requested to preserve them in the archives in Arles.

This study has caused a global stir since it got published and is being covered by news media organizations worldwide. However, it has been denounced by some scientists, including Jean-Marie Robine, who authored a book about her around the time of her death. Robine added, "All of this is incredibly shaky and rests on nothing,"

According to a famous magazine, Jeanne answered questions that only she could have known the answer to, as in the name of her maths teacher and housekeepers in her building at the time, in the interview.

Author Robine pointed at Zak and said, " how could Fernand Calment [Jeanne's husband] have passed his daughter for his wife? Will everyone in town keep silent?" Michel Vauzelle, the mayor of Arles at the time of Calment’s death, has said the Zak's theory is "completely impossible and ridiculous."

Another researcher Nicolas Brouard, working as a research director at France's National Demographics Studies Institute said that DNA testing would resolve the debate.

Russian researcher Zak got interested in this case, in February while studying the mortality patterns of people older than 105. He started to investigate her life in September.

The Russian researcher added, "those who are criticizing my work are those who have a huge conflict of interest or those who haven’t read it." Although he has done this research himself, he added, a mistake could have happened.

Guinness World Records responded over the report and said that it was very well aware of this report. They added, "Extensive research is done about the entries to every oldest person record title. This includes a team led by experts in the gerontology field.

On Calment's 120th birthday a special interview done by a leading daily which discussed her life in detail. The report read that she was born in Arles, a small town in southern France, on February 21, 1875, before even the lightbulb was invented. She later got married to Fernand Calment at the age of 21.

It was reported that Calment was very much into painting and was a student of the celebrated artist Vincent van Gogh. Her other hobbies included bicycling, hunting, and hiking.

Calment has outlived most of her family. Her daughter Yvonne died at 36 of pleurisy, her husband Fernand died in 1942, at the age of 72. And her only grandson, Frederic got killed in a car crash at 36 in 1963.

In another such instance, in Japan, Shigechiyo Izumi, was claimed to be the world's oldest man when he passed away in 1986 at the age of 120. Proving his age claims wrong, research proved that he was around 105 at the time of his death.

Apparently, Calment loved chocolate and ate two pounds a week, rode a bicycle till she was 100. It is also said she quit her two cigarettes a day habit a few years before her death, not for better health, but because she could not light her own cigarette without asking for help.

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