Jeanne Calment, the French woman who holds the title as the world’s oldest person, may have been a fraud, Russian researchers allege.
Calment died in 1997 at the age of 122 years and 164 days. However, Nikolai Zak, a mathematician and a member of the Society of Naturalists of Moscow University, wrote in his study, “Jeanne Calment: The secret of longevity,” that he believed the French woman “took the identity of her mother.”
Zak told the Agence France-Press [AFP] that he analyzed biographies, photos and archives from Arles, the city in southern France where Calment lived and determined his conclusion. Gerontologist Valeri Novoselov supported his research.
"The analysis of all these documents led me to the conclusion that the daughter of Jeanne Calment, Yvonne, took the identity of her mother," Zak told the AFP.
According to an official document, Calment’s daughter Yvonne died of pleurisy in 1934. However, Zak believed the mother, Jeanne Calment died and Yvonne “borrowed the identity” of her mother in order to avoid “paying the inheritance tax.”
Calment is believed to have been 99 when she died in 1997, researchers said.
Novoselov told the AFP he “always had doubts” about Calment’s age. He said Calment was “sitting without support” and had “no signs of dementia.”
Jean-Marie Robine, a French demographer and gerontologist who helped the Guinness book of World Records on the validity of records regarding Calment’s agent said he “never had any doubt about the authenticity of the documents.”
Nicolas Brouard, the director of research at the French Institute of Demographic Studies, has called on the bodies of Jeanne and Yvonne Calment to be exhumed in order to determine how old they were.
If Calment’s record is canceled, Sarah Knauss, an American, will be named the world’s oldest person. Knauss died in 1999 at the age of 119.