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Why should you care about Jeanne Calment? | Destination 100

When recently cleaning out some old files, I came across an article about Jeanne Calment.  The article was 10 years old. Yes, it is time to get rid of some of the information I have saved.

This woman had the longest confirmed lifespan in history.  She lived 122 years and 164 days. Since the article was so old, I checked to see if anyone had set a new record.  Alas, she died in 1997 but still holds the record.

Does Jeanne Calment matter?  The older I get, the more curious I am about those who have lived really long lives.  I say my destination is 100, but am encouraged to know about others who have made this epic number and gone even beyond.

The question everyone has for a centenarian (one who is alive at 100) or supercentenarian (one older than 100) is, “what is your secret?”  We are all looking for the fountain of youth; that magic elixir that will keep us young forever. Why do you think I still have the article?  

Did Jeanne Calment have a “secret?”  This French woman said hers was olive oil.  She poured it on all her food and rubbed it into her skin.  Her diet included port wine and nearly 2 pounds of chocolate every week.  She also smoked until she was 117 and could no longer see to light the cigarettes.

She lived an active lifestyle her entire life. At 85 she took up fencing and was still riding  a bicycle at 100. She lived on her own until 110 when she moved into a nursing home. While there, she insisted on being awakened at 6:45 am.  She would pray and exercise every morning. She thanked god for the beautiful day that was starting, donned her headphones and did gymnastics. Her caregivers noted that she moved faster that other residents who were 30 years younger.

She appeared briefly in a film in 1990 about the life of Vincent Van Gogh.  She was the only person still alive who had known the famous artist. She was 114 at the time, making her the oldest actress ever.  

Calment had one daughter and one grandson.  Sadly she outlived both of them. At the age of 90 she signed a deal to sell her former apartment on a contingency contract.  The purchaser age 47 at the time, agreed to pay a monthly sum of 2500 francs ($470 US) until she died. The purchaser paid her the equivalent of $180,000, more than twice the apartment’s value.  

The purchaser died of cancer at age 77.  His family continued the payments until Calment died. When asked about the situation her comment was reported to be, “In life, one sometimes makes bad deals.”  

So is Jeanne Calment important?  Is she even relevant?

Her story convinced me to continue my own regular exercise routine as well as biking, hiking, walking, etc.  My use of olive oil will now extend to the bathroom sink as well as my kitchen counter. Maybe I will take up fencing and buy some chocolates.  It could happen.

If you want to live long and live well download the booklet “5 Things That Make You Feel Old.”