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Researchers claim that the World’s oldest woman may have faked her age

The woman believed to be the oldest person ever lived may have lengthened her real age by 23 years.

The French woman died as the world’s oldest may have lied about her age, a Russian mathematician has claimed. According to him, she may have done this by stealing her mother’s identity to tack on an extra 23 years.

Jeanne Calment died in 1997 at the age of 122 in the southern French town in which she was born. Her death drew a flurry of attention.

At an age of 122, she had been certified by the Guinness World Records and public health researchers as the oldest recognized person to have lived.

But a Russian mathematician, Nikolay Zak, is casting doubt on her claim. According to him, Calment was actually Yvonne Calment, Jeanne’s daughter. Zak believes that she may have assumed her mother’s identity to avoid inheritance taxes in the 1930s. If true, Yvonne Calment would have been 99 if she died in 1997.

Hence, his evidence published in a paper recently on scientist portal Research Gate is not definitive. In the report, he said that Jean’s death was reported as Yvonne’s in 1934. If Yvonne assumed the identity of her mother, she would have been 99 at the time of her death.

Zak’s data comprises interviews of Calment where she confuses her husband and her father, as well as some physical discrepancies like a different eye color listed on a passport from the 1930s than eye color later in life, and changes to her chin and forehead.

Zak, along with gerontologists, scrutinize Jeanne Calment’s biographies. They analyzed her photos, interviews, witness testimony and public records in the city, where she lived.

After analyzing all these materials he concluded that Jeanne Calment’s daughter Yvonne assumed the identity of her mother.

Multiple contradictions

Researchers found “multiple contradictions” in Jeanne Calment’s records. Hence, he believes Yvonne assumed her mom’s identity after her death to avoid inheritance tax. If this is the case, the woman who died in 1997 was really Yvonne — and she was only 99.

Moreover, there are other discrepancies between physical characteristics listed on Jeanne’s identity card from the 1930s and her appearance as an older woman. Her eye and hair color are black and her height is 152 centimeters on her identity card.

A doctor who examined her at age 114 found that she was 150 centimeters. And that the 2-centimeter (¾-inch) difference wasn’t reliable with an age-related loss in height. Meanwhile, the woman died in 1997 had chestnut brown hair and light gray eyes. Hence, it shows that the young Yvonne was taller than the old Jeanne.

According to Novoselov, head of the gerontology section of the Moscow Society of Naturalists, there were other striking details as well which didn’t add up.

He said that as a doctor he always had doubts regarding her age. Also, the state of her muscle system was much different from that of her age group. She could easily sit up without any support. Moreover, she had no signs of dementia.

A post-mortem was not performed when Jeanne died, so experts have not been able to research how and why she allegedly lived so long. Moreover, she credited her long life to drinking port, eating chocolate, and enjoying the rare cigarette.

Moreover, Russian scientists say Jeanne made her old photos to be burned when she became famous for her age, thus fueling doubts about her real identity.

Criticism

French demographer and gerontologist Jean-Marie Robine criticized the Russian report. He said it never examines the evidence in favor of the authenticity of the longevity of Madame Calment.  And, it was defamatory against her family.

Therefore, he never had any doubts regarding the authenticity of her documents. Calment family members didn’t return requests for comment from AFP.

If Jeanne Calment’s record were to be canceled, the tributes would go to American Sarah Knauss. This woman died at 119 in 1999.

Sophie Abram

Sophie Abram is an author at Top Health Journal. She has a master’s degree in Biochemistry. Evidence-based nutrition is her passion and she loves to devote her career to informing the general public about it. She has extensive experience as a researcher and her research focus is within food reformulation, improving food supply and food environments. Her research examines how nutrition, dietary supplements, and exercise affects human body composition.

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