Jeanne Louise Calment was born on the 21st of February 1875 and she lived until the 4th of August 1997, a life of 122 years and 164 days. It was the longest confirmed life by a human in history.
She lived her entire life in Arles, France and outlived her daughter and grandson. She became well known especially throughout France from the age of 113 and in 1988 she entered the Guinness book of world records. Other cases of similar ages have not had the documentation to prove their age, one case being that of Shigechiyo Izumi of Japan, his death on the 21st of February 1965 and claimed to be 120 is in dispute with his actual age thought to be closer to 105.
Jeanne Calment had a number of family members living to an advanced age. Her older brother, Francois lived until he was 97, her father until 93 and her mother lived for 86 years. She married a wealthy store owner and that meant she never had to work, instead enjoying leisure activities like tennis, cycling, swimming, rollerskating, playing the piano and going to the opera. Of her pastimes she continued to cycle until past her 100th birthday.
Her husband died in 1942, their only child, Yvonne was born in 1898, died in 1934 from pneumonia. Her grandson Frederic was born in 1926 and he died in a motorcycle accident in 1963 at the age of 36, the same age as his mother. In 1965, aged 90 and with no heirs, she signed a contract to sell her apartment to a lawyer, Andre Francois Raffray. Raffray then aged 47 would pay 2,500 francs each month until she died, Raffray ended up paying more than double the value of the apartment and when he died in 1995 his widow continued to pay the monthly payments until Jeanne Calment’s own death.
She stayed healthy for many years, not moving into an old people’s home until the age of 110. A documentary was made about her life released in 1995 and called ‘beyond 120 years,’ on her 122nd birthday it was announced that she would be making no more public appearances as her health was deteriorating. She died that same year.
There have been many disputed claims by others that state they are older or have lived longer. A woman in Azerbaijan it has been claimed was 168 years old at her death, another still alive from the former soviet state of Georgia born allegedly in 1880 and an Indonesian claiming to be over 157 years old. Each of these are under dispute as there is no evidence to prove the date of their birth, none of these claims are recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records.
Throughout her long life she was not fanatical about her health, at the age of 85 she took up the sport of fencing. She was only moved into a nursing home because of problems with her eyesight at age 110, she still went for walks until the age of 114 and a fall resulted in a broken femur. She smoked, only about two cigarettes a day until the age of 117, a habit she began some 96 years previously. She claimed that olive oil, poured onto her food and rubbed into her skin was the reason for her longevity, as well as a diet of port wine and the eating of almost a kilo of chocolate each week.