Birthday: February 21, 1875
Sun Sign: Pisces
Also Known As: Jeanne Louise Calment
Born in: Arles
Famous as: Oldest Person Ever
Height: 1.50 m
Spouse/Ex-: Fernand Calment (m. 1896; d. 1942)
father: Nicolas Calment
mother: Marguerite Calment
siblings: Antoine Calment, François Calment, Marie Calment
children: Yvonne Calment
Died on: August 4, 1997
place of death: Arles
Jeanne Calment was a French supercentenarian who had the longest confirmed lifespan in human history. She lived for 122 years and 164 days before she passed away in 1997. She was born in Arles, France, and spent her entire life there. She witnessed the deaths of her daughter and her grandson. On January 11, 1988, at the age of 112, she was confirmed as the oldest-living person. This was a hundred years after she had encountered the famous painter Vincent Van Gogh who had visited her father’s shop in 1888. In 1995, she was officially confirmed as the oldest-living person on the planet ever. She once stated on a TV show that she had never fallen ill in her life. When asked about the secret behind her longevity, she said that there was no secret behind it and that she just ate healthy and exercised every day. She became deaf and blind shortly before her death in 1997. She had become a celebrity by then. There were several speculations about her longevity, but there was no concrete fact. She also stated that longevity ran in her family, as both her parents had also lived close to hundred years. Her case is still a medical marvel that has fascinated researchers from all over the world.
Jeanne Calment was born on February 21, 1875, in Arles, Bouches-du- Rhône, Southern France, to Nicolas Calment and Marguerite Gilles. She grew up with an older brother named François. Her father worked as a shipbuilder, and her mother belonged to a family of millers.
All of Jeanne’s family members lived long, although none of them lived as long as her. Her brother died at the age of 97, while her mother and father lived up to the ages of 86 and 93, respectively.
At the age of 7, Jeanne was enrolled at the ‘Madame Benet’s Church Primary School’ in her hometown. She stayed in the same school until her first holy communion. She later attended the local college until she turned 16, and following that, she spent most of her time painting and playing the piano. She awaited her marriage and lived with her parents during this time, with nothing much to do.
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In April 1896, at the age of 21, she married her double second cousin Fernand Nicolas Calment. The couple’s paternal grandfathers were brothers and their grandmothers were sisters. Fernand was a rich man, and he owned a shop in Southern France that ran successfully. Jeanne spent almost 90 years in the house above the shop.
The business thrived initially. Jeanne did not have to earn a penny. Jeanne belonged to a lower middle-class family but was introduced to the upper-class society of Paris after her marriage and enjoyed it to the fullest. She spent most of her time cycling, swimming, camping, painting, and playing the piano, while her husband worked to make money.
During the summer holidays, the couple would go to Uriage to spend some time away from their busy lives. There, Jeanne accompanied her husband on his hunting expeditions. In 1898, the couple had a daughter named Yvonne Marie Nicolle Calment. Yvonne died at the age of 36 after a battle with pneumonia.
Jeanne claimed several times that she had had a very happy married life and that the lack of stress in her life could have been one of the secrets behind her long life. She also stated that since she was a child, she was never too stressed about anything and scarcely fell ill.
However, she once fell ill during the Second World War. It was 1942, and the war had already reached Southern France. She and her husband accidentally ate some poisoned cherries. She ate little and thus survived, but her husband fell severely ill the following day and passed away soon, at the age of 73.
Of all the great historical events that she lived through, she believed the Russian Revolution was the most influential of all. In 1917, the Russians demanded democracy. Soon, the entire royal family was executed. The world was never the same after that. The event also impacted France. The fall of Russian imperialism has been one of the most thrilling moments many centenarians have witnessed.
She also witnessed the Second World War closely. Although she claimed that her part of the country was least affected by the war, she did have an encounter with German soldiers. She claimed that they barged into her house and asked for a place to spend the night. However, Jeanne did not hate them, as they “did not take anything away.”
By the time she was 90 years old, she was without any apparent heir. In 1965, she made a deal with her lawyer, André-François Raffray, about selling the house. The deal was that André would pay her 2,500 francs every month until her death. André died at the age of 77, but ended up paying twice the value of the house. Jeanne continued getting a monthly sum from André’s family after his death. In 1985, at the age of 110 years, Jeanne moved into a nursing home after living alone for a long time.
A year after she moved into the nursing home, Jeanne had already become the oldest-living person in the world. She was 111 years old at that time, and the former oldest person, Eugenie Roux, had just died. Jeanne met international fame in 1988, when it became common knowledge that the great painter Vincent van Gogh had visited her uncle’s shop in 1888 and had met Jeanne, who was 13 years old at that time.
Vincent had visited the shop to buy some canvas for his paintings. Jeanne claimed that he was an ugly alcoholic man who frequented brothels very often.
Before January 11, 1988, Florence Knapp was the oldest person alive. After her demise, Jeanne replaced her. At the age of 112 years, Jeanne was included in the ‘The Guinness Book of Records.’ However, several reports continued to claim that there were people who were older than Jeanne. None of those reports were verified.
On October 17, 1995, at the age of 120 years and 238 days, Jeanne officially became the oldest person to have ever lived.
Secrets and Death
Jeanne Calment was asked countless times about the secret behind her long life. She often responded by saying that she had not done anything different. Longevity ran in her family, and Jeanne took very good care of her health by exercising regularly and sleeping enough every day. Additionally, she claimed that she had never been stressed.
She smoked only twice in a day. She had suffered from a few minor illnesses, such as migraine and conjunctivitis, in her younger days. She underwent several medical tests for researchers to ascertain the reason behind her long life.
Jeanne became blind and deaf shortly before her death. She died on August 4, 1997, in her nursing home. She had been suffering from ill health in the months leading up to her death. She was buried in Arles along with photographs of her daughter and her grandson, according to her wishes.