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Questioning the Validity of Jeanne Calment's Age

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#1 reason

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Posted 07 December 2018 - 11:06 AM


Jeanne Calment is well known as the longest-lived person, with her age at death validated at 122 years. The data for supercentenarians, the exceptionally rare individuals who live to be 110 years of age or older, is very ragged. This is usually the case at the far outside end of a distribution, where the total number of data points is very low. It is usual to find outliers, but some people feel that Jeanne Calment is too much of an outlier given the other validated ages of death for supercentenarians. Only one other person lived to be 119, and no-one else is known to have made it past 117. The yearly mortality rates for supercentenarians appear to be 50% or greater, though it is hard to be exact given the very sparse data. The odds of finding people just a few years older diminish precipitously given that level of risk.

So what is more likely: that Jeanne Calment was the furthest outlier, or that the validation process was flawed, and she was in fact significantly younger? We would be very skeptical of anyone claiming to be 125. Should we be more skeptical of the existing claim of 122 years of age? This sort of discussion is an interesting one, as illustrated by the article here, but whether or not Jeanne Calment did die aged 122 will soon enough become of little importance to the world at large. With the advent of low cost rejuvenation therapies in the form of senolytic drugs, the environment of aging will change rapidly in the decade ahead. The use of these treatments will spread widely through the population. Other rejuvenation therapies will soon follow, amplifying the effects. Remaining life span in later life will be increasingly determined by technology and ever less by genetic resilience and chance.

If you open an article dedicated to supercentenarians, it is very likely that at its very beginning, you will see the name of Jeanne Calment, the oldest known person in the world, who is believed to have lived for up to 122 years. Jeanne is not merely a unique phenomenon from the point of view of statistics; over the years, she became a symbol of extraordinary human capacities. A couple of weeks ago a report shed new light on the case of Jeanne Calment. The main hypothesis of this independent investigation is that the person who we know as Jeanne Calment is actually her daughter, Yvonne, who took the place of her mother after her death in 1934 in order to help her family avoid heavy financial losses related to inheritance. The initiator of this independent investigation, Valery Novoselov, is convinced that Calment's case has to be revalidated.

Valery, you are currently involved in revalidating longevity records. What was your motivation to engage in these investigations in the first place?

My main focus of interest is people. I don't like to deal with animals, because I believe that due to evolutionary mechanisms, the processes of aging in different species are not homologous. So, I am only interested in analyzing human data with some practical application of the results. Back in 2016, I was curious how many centenarians there were in the Moscow region. The Department of Labor and Social Security and the Federal Agency of Statistics provided me with two absolutely different sets of data. The one from the agency gave me 4135 people aged 100 and older, and the Department of Labor gave me 735 people. 6-fold difference. The main idea here is this: too much variance of data is likely an indicator of errors. In centenarians, the possibility of error is the highest.

What was the starting point in the investigation of Jeanne Calment's case? What was the first thing that caused the initial skepticism?

In the last few years, there were many interesting articles on the survival curve of centenarians and supercentenarians. Despite their differing views on the survival plateaus of marginal age groups, the case of Jeanne Calment didn't fit into any of the refined math models behind their studies. If we imagine the curves of survival in these studies, Jeanne is a dot away from the main trend that they describe. One more reason for suspicion is how far from other longevity records her age is. All other supercentenarians are several years apart from them. Most longevity records are very close to one another. Whenever a new record is set, the person dies several days or several weeks later, very rarely several months later. However, we are never speaking about years apart, definitely not several years.

So, you started to check the data from this validation group?

I had many ideas at once. I am a geriatrician, and in my work, I rely on visual assessment a lot. My eyes were telling me that Jeanne didn't have the hallmarks of frailty that would correspond to her official age, such as the fact that unlike other supercentenarians, she was able to sit straight in her chair without others' help. I didn't see enough signs of dermal atrophy nor atrophy of subcutaneous tissue. As a first step, I decided to run a survey to see how people assessed Jeanne's age by comparing her photos and videos to the photos and videos of other supercentenarians. The participants (233 random people) were massively reducing her age by around 20-25 years compared to her official age on the date when this picture was taken. The more that we checked, the more that small inconsistencies, errors, and even signs of intentional fraud were revealed. After looking at all the data that we has managed to collect, including the known intentional destruction of the family archive, we developed a hypothesis that is now being checked. In 1934, there was a death in the Calment family. The official story is that in 1934, Jeanne had lost her only daughter, Yvonne. We think that in reality it was Jeanne who had died, aged almost 59, and her daughter took her name and personality.

It is nice to learn that the community is open to the idea of revalidation.

Indeed. However, I am asking myself why the revalidation was not initiated earlier, as the more you dig, the more questions arise. The main lesson of this is still to be learned, however. You see, the current buzz around longevity records can be easily distracting us from the goals that are truly important. I'd really want this story to be reduced to a revalidation by a qualified group of researchers and to an update of all corresponding books. In my view, it just does not deserve the hype. There was a mistake, we will correct it, and that is it. We will be seeing new longevity records again and again; it will never stop, because there is no proven limit of human healthspan and lifespan.

Link: https://www.leafscie...ngevity-record/


View the full article at FightAging

#2 Turnbuckle

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Posted 07 December 2018 - 12:53 PM

The official story is that in 1934, Jeanne had lost her only daughter, Yvonne. We think that in reality it was Jeanne who had died, aged almost 59, and her daughter took her name and personality.

 

 

It's far easier to believe that she was 122 than the above weird hypothesis. 


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#3 Mind

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Posted 07 December 2018 - 09:04 PM

I suppose it could be some sort-of error, however, outliers are outliers, they are special, they don't fit the bell-curve or Gaussian distribution. The starting point of this investigation "Clement doesn't fit with all of the other supercentenarians" is kind-of odd because the record longest-lived human should be odd.

 

In any case, birth and death records get better every year, so there should be less controversy in the future.



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#4 xEva

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Posted 08 December 2018 - 01:46 AM

I totally buy it. You gotta read the whole thing, not just few quotes.

Looks like Jeane's daughter Yvonne, born in 1898, impersonated her mother for financial reasons. She lived 99 years.

 

But then, why 122 is so different from 119?


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#5 Turnbuckle

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Posted 08 December 2018 - 11:23 AM

I totally buy it. You gotta read the whole thing, not just few quotes.

Looks like Jeane's daughter Yvonne, born in 1898, impersonated her mother for financial reasons. She lived 99 years.

 

But then, why 122 is so different from 119?

 

There no actual evidence in the story, only arguments built upon sketchy reasoning. As for motivation--

 

V. – Indeed, and there was a motive. The 1930s were dire years for the family. Her mother in law and her father both died in 1931, and the family had to pay huge inheritance taxes in each case. Unlike their levels at the beginning of the century, these taxes were up to 35% of the property’s cost, as the government was likely preparing for the next world war.

 

https://www.leafscie...ngevity-record/

 

 

His statement about 35% might be correct for the rich, but France had a progressive scale, and people at the lower end would be paying little or nothing. So this "huge inheritance tax" comes across as a huge exaggeration. 


Edited by Turnbuckle, 08 December 2018 - 11:40 AM.


#6 xEva

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Posted 08 December 2018 - 05:40 PM

There no actual evidence in the story, only arguments built upon sketchy reasoning. As for motivation--

 

 

His statement about 35% might be correct for the rich, but France had a progressive scale, and people at the lower end would be paying little or nothing. So this "huge inheritance tax" comes across as a huge exaggeration. 

 

Not based on reasoning alone. They found the corroborating records, then that facial dimensions thingy that fit the daughter but not the mother... And they were rich, far from the "lower end". The father had died just 3 years prior, so within 3 years they would have to give up about a half of the value of their estate in taxes. Plus. Jeanne had an annuity, which Yvonne continued to receive -- and! there is a quote from some unrelated old book that said that the company that was paying that annuity knew that it was the daughter.

 

and I would think it was easy to do: Just claim that you're so upset that don't want to see anyone, especially since her 'son-in-law' probably handled all the dealings with the outside world, for a few years at least. And then the war. Totally doable. 


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#7 Turnbuckle

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Posted 08 December 2018 - 06:30 PM

Not based on reasoning alone. They found the corroborating records, then that facial dimensions thingy that fit the daughter but not the mother... And they were rich, far from the "lower end". The father had died just 3 years prior, so within 3 years they would have to give up about a half of the value of their estate in taxes. Plus. Jeanne had an annuity, which Yvonne continued to receive -- and! there is a quote from some unrelated old book that said that the company that was paying that annuity knew that it was the daughter.

 

and I would think it was easy to do: Just claim that you're so upset that don't want to see anyone, especially since her 'son-in-law' probably handled all the dealings with the outside world, for a few years at least. And then the war. Totally doable. 

 

 

I buy the facial dimension thing as much as I buy the Bellingcat assertions about those Russians, which is to say, not at all. As for them being rich, just how rich? He says these were dire years for them, which undercuts that. And if the company knew there was fraud, why would they continue to pay. It's all very vague and inconsistent, a lot of hand waving and the sort of arguments you hear in bars. It's up to him to make a case, and he hasn't done it.



#8 xEva

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Posted 10 December 2018 - 05:09 AM

this can be settled if the body of presumed Yvonne could be exhumed. It should be easy for a specialist to tell 36-y.o. from 59-y.o. She is buried in Arles Cemetery (Arles, Departement des Bouches-du-Rhône, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France)

 

85643110_133013212950.jpg

 

ha! according to that find-a-grave page, Yvonne's father and Jeanne's husband died 10 years later, in 1944, which casts a doubt on the inheritance tax thing -- (unless he somehow was not the owner -?) strange that the article would not mention it.

 

 

PS

oh never mind... in 1931 Jeanne's father (Yvonne's grand dad) died and Jeanne inherited the estate plus an apartment (in Paris or Arles -?)  which she sold for an annuity until her death. So upon Jeanne' death just 3y later, Yvonne was loosing that apartment for close to nothing + additional inheritance tax on the estate. By taking the identity of her mother she kept the tax, the apartment and the annuity.

 

As for how rich they were, it is often stressed in her biography that she did not work a day in her life, which, however, was then the norm for a middle class married woman.

 


Edited by xEva, 10 December 2018 - 05:36 AM.

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#9 Hebbeh

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Posted 10 December 2018 - 05:32 AM

 Never mind... just saw xEva's edit which shows probable motive.


Edited by Hebbeh, 10 December 2018 - 05:36 AM.


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#10 Turnbuckle

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Posted 10 December 2018 - 12:18 PM

The guy might have a point if anyone was saying that she wasn't who she said she was at the time. Is there a shred of evidence anyone did?



#11 ceridwen

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Posted 10 December 2018 - 12:31 PM

Perhaps she was too clever for that. Seriously it would make any awful lot of sense. Just another old person trying to contact us into thinking that she was older than she was. Sigh
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#12 xEva

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Posted 11 December 2018 - 11:41 PM

The guy might have a point if anyone was saying that she wasn't who she said she was at the time. Is there a shred of evidence anyone did?

 

 

She probably became a recluse for a few years, at least. That would be a prudent thing to do.

 

And her closest of kin must have been on it and supported and covered up for her.  With her "son-in-law" and "husband" playing fully along, who would dare to contradict, even if they suspected anything?


Edited by xEva, 12 December 2018 - 12:09 AM.

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#13 Iporuru

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Posted 31 January 2019 - 05:44 PM

Evidence that Jeanne Calment died in 1934, not 1997.
Zak N.
Rejuvenation Res. 2019 Jan 30. doi: 10.1089/rej.2018.2167. [Epub ahead of print]
PMID: 30696353

Abstract
I present a body of data that, I argue, cumulatively casts serious doubt on the validity of Jeanne Calment's accepted world record of human lifespan. First, I assess the plausibility of the record based on the lifespans of other centenarians in the International Database of Longevity (IDL) and critique some arguments put forward previously in support of this record, including the longevity of Calment's ancestors. Second, I review the literature dedicated to Calment and discuss multiple contradictions in her interviews, biographies, photos, and documents. I argue that the evidence from these sources motivates renewed consideration of the previously rejected hypothesis that Jeanne's daughter Yvonne acquired her mother's identity after her death in order to avoid paying inheritance tax and that Jeanne Calment's death was reported as Yvonne's death in 1934. Finally I discuss the importance of reconsidering the principles of validation, due to the possibility of similar problems regarding other exceptionally long-lived people and the mistaken inferences that researchers may draw from flawed datasets. The phenomenon of Jeanne Calment may prove to be an instructive example of the uncertainty of seemingly well-established facts.



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#14 caliban

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Posted 12 March 2019 - 04:27 PM

Nikolay Zak "Jeanne Calment: the secret of longevity"

 

Here, I challenge the validity of Jeanne Calment's universally accepted record of human lifespan. I assess the plausibility of the record based on the lifespans of other centenarians in the International Database of Longevity (IDL) and analyze and refute the arguments put forward by gerontologists in support of this record, such as the hereditary longevity of Jeanne's ancestors and her lifelong residence in the center of a small town. I review the literature dedicated to this reportedly oldest documented human being and reveal multiple contradictions in her interviews, biographies, photos, and documents. I suggest an explanation of these discrepancies based on the hypothesis that Jeanne's daughter Yvonne acquired her mother's identity after her death in order to avoid paying inheritance tax and that Jeanne Calment's death was reported by her family as Yvonne's death in 1934. I discuss the importance of reconsidering the principles of validation due to the possibility of similar problems regarding other long-lived people. The phenomenon of Jeanne Calment could also be used as an example of the vulnerability of seemingly well-established facts.

 

Attached File  Zak2018_calment.pdf   824.59KB   2 downloads

 

 

Angela Chen "How we know the oldest person who ever lived wasn't faking her age"
 

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