The Guinness World Record holder for the world’s oldest woman – Jeanne Calment – was not a fake as the Russians had claimed and did indeed die at the ripe old age of 122, Swiss and French experts have confirmed.
In a study published today, Monday 16th September, University of Geneva (UNIGE) and University Hospitals of Geneva (HUG) scientists in Switzerland, working with experts from France’s Institut National de la Sante et de la Recherche Medicale (INSERM) and the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (EPHE), have put forward what they say is historical, mathematical and medical evidence proving the that she was indeed 122 when she died.
Last year, in 2018, Russian scientists had claimed that supercentenarian Jeanne Calment’s daughter Yvonne might have pretended to be her mother in 1934, sparking a flurry of conspiracy theories about the woman who is the Guinness World Record holder for the oldest woman ever.
Nikolai Zak, a mathematician working with gerontologist Valery Novoselov had claimed last year that “Yvonne assumed her mother’s identity.”
But now the study published in the Journal of Gerontology today, Monday 16th September, has local French and Swiss media saying that it has quashed the unfounded Russian conspiracy theories once and for all.
Jean-Marie Robine and Michel Allard, two scientists who had validated her record back in 1997, are among those behind this new study, which reportedly took 9 months to conduct.
The researchers used a complicated mathematical probability model that determined that Calment was indeed 122 when she died. They also dug through historical data, notably pertaining to the death of her daughter Yvonne in 1934, at the age of 36, in Arles, in southern France’s Provence region.
They say they have found no evidence to suggest that Jeanne had been ill before her daughter’s death, as the Russians had claimed.
Jean-Marie Robine, INSERM’s head of research, has been quoted as saying: “All the documents found go against the Russian theory.”
He added that her longevity was due to “good genes and luck”. This in turn allowed for her to “age remarkably slowly.”
The probability model used by the researchers demonstrated that it would indeed be rare for someone born at the time to reach such an age, one in ten million, in fact, but one of the researchers said that improbable and impossible are two completely different things.
According to one of the study’s co-authors, Francois Herrmann, who is a geriatrician at the HUG and who is an expert in the epidemiology of the elderly, said: “Certainly, a slim probability, but that is far from making Mrs Calment a statistical impossibility.”
According to Guinness World Records, Jeanne Calment lived 122 year and 164 days. She was born on 21st February 1875 in Arles and died on 4th August 1997 in the city where she was born.
She reportedly used to joke that the Almighty must have forgotten about her.
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