The Story of the World’s Oldest Person Who Met Vincent Van Gogh and Said She Didn’t Like Him
A centenarian is a person who’s lived for 100 or more years. Jeanne Calment was one of those people. Reaching this age is so rare that many skeptics don’t believe it’s even possible. Some of them even came up with a theory that Calment died and her daughter impersonated her for the rest of her life. Whether this is true or not, the story of Jeanne Calment is definitely worth a read.
We at Bright Side were really impressed to find out about a woman who lived for more than 100 years. And we hope you’re just as eager to learn her secret to longevity.
A woman that lived 122 years
Jeanne Calment was born in Arles, France in 1875. At that time, the life expectancy for a woman was 45. But Calment somehow managed to live almost 3 times as long, and her life was anything but boring.
Calment even claimed that she’d met Vincent van Gogh at a paint shop where she helped her future husband when she was 13 years old. Interestingly, he didn’t make a good impression on her. Calment said that he looked ugly, didn’t smell good, and was rude.
A long life — a gift or a curse
In 1898, Calment had a daughter, Yvonne. Unfortunately, she died in 1934, leaving behind a husband and a 7-year-old son, who Calment and her husband, Fernand, raised as their own. In 1942, Calment suffered another loss — this time it was her husband. One could say her long life was a curse because she outlived many of her closest relatives. In 1963, she lost both her grandson and her son-in-law.
In 1988, at the age of 112, she was recognized as the oldest person in the world. Another woman was given this title sometime later, but in 1991, after she died, it went back to Calment. She was 116 at that time, and she lived to be 122 years old.
Some poeple don’t believe it’s possible to live that long.
It’s understandable that some people were convinced it wasn’t possible to live until such an old age. And there was a team of researchers who confirmed that Calment was indeed who she claimed to be. One of them, a demographer, said she was a “tough cookie.” Even at that old age, she would wake up at 6:45 and do calisthenics.
However, there was another skeptical surge of interest in Calment in 2018. Valery Novoselov, a Russian geriatrician, announced that he wanted to prove that Calment was an imposter and that she didn’t actually live until the age of 122. He shared his thoughts on this matter with a mathematician, Nikolay Zak, who agreed with him.
According to his calculations, it was very unlikely for someone to live 122 years. Mathematical models created by other researchers showed, however, that it was actually not impossible to live to such an old age. Moreover, there were existing well-documented cases of people who lived almost just as long.
There were certain pieces of evidence that seemed to support Novoselov’s and Zak’s opinions. Or, at least, they interpreted them in their favor. Further investigations led them to a theory that the person claiming to be Jeanne Calment was actually her daughter, Yvonne.
They claimed that, as they believed, it was Jeanne Calment who died in 1934, and her family said it was Yvonne to avoid inheritance taxes. However, this theory was disproved by one researcher who explained that those inheritance taxes couldn’t have financially burdened the family, so there was no reason for them to commit fraud.
And there were other skeptics and theories too. However, there were enough people and documents that could verify that Jeanne Calment was indeed Jeanne Calment and not anyone else and that she lived 122 years.
Her personality is something to be remembered.
One might expect someone who’s lived as long a life as Jeanne, who’s had to witness the deaths of her loved ones, to become reserved and maybe even cynical or grouchy. But that wasn’t Jeanne Calment.
When she turned 100, she walked to the houses of every person in Arles who wished her a happy birthday to thank them. And she didn’t lose her spirit later in life either. At the age of 120, she told reporters, “I see badly, I hear badly, I can’t feel anything, but everything’s fine.” She continued, “I waited 110 years to get famous. I intend to enjoy it.”
As for how she managed to live that long, no one actually knows. She herself believed it was thanks to laughter and olive oil. Others believed it was due to her sugar-rich diet — she would eat 2 pounds of chocolate a week and had dessert with every meal. And one medical researcher suggested it was because she was “immune to stress.”
Do you think 122 years is too long a life or would you like to live just as long? Do you know anyone personally who’s just as old?