This editorial is from the Chicago Tribune:

For years, Jeanne Calment has reigned as the oldest documented person to have lived. She supposedly died in 1997 at age 122.

But now Russian mathematician Nikolay Zak has exhumed that claim and startled researchers with a challenge: He argues that Calment was actually Yvonne Calment, Jeanne’s daughter, the Washington Post reports. Zak says Yvonne took her mother’s identity to elude inheritance taxes in the 1930s. If so, Yvonne Calment would have been 99 in 1997 — not 122.

In a paper published on a research-sharing portal, ResearchGate, Zak offers evidence — though it’s not conclusive — to buttress his theory. For instance: Calment was nearly the same height at age 100-plus as she had been at a younger age; older people usually lose height as they age. A passport for Jeanne in the 1930s shows a different eye color entered for her than what was noted in later life. Zak cites a litany of discrepancies in her accounts of details of her life over time.

Zak’s claim drew a strong rebuke from Jean-Marie Robine, who wrote a book about Calment around the time of her death, the Post reports. “All of this is incredibly shaky and rests on nothing,” Robine told Le Parisien.

We don’t know if Calment was 99 or 122 when she died. But we all naturally seek clues from the habits of those who are healthy into old age. We want to believe that a personal regimen of diet, medical treatment, exercise or genes will carry us well into the ninth or 10th decade of life in relative good health.

If that fails, we hope scientists discover new ways to intervene and forestall the inevitable. During the 20th century, American life expectancies bounded ahead, adding decades to the average life via medical breakthroughs, therapies and better preventive care.

Scientists now debate the natural limits of the human body. Can people live to 150? To which a pragmatist who fears decades of decline might retort: Would anyone want to?

Whether she lived to 99 or 122, at least one of the Calments defied the odds in many ways: She smoked until she was so old she had to quit because she couldn’t light a cigarette without assistance.

Whatever the outcome of this tempest, here’s what we remember: Calment rode a bike until she was 100. She loved chocolate and reportedly ate 2 pounds a week. In 1995, a Chicago Tribune editorial page noted that Calment was blind, almost deaf and used a wheelchair, but still proclaimed that “everything in life” interested her. That’s a fine example for the rest of us — at any age.

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