08 August 2008

Jeanne Calment: A Healthy Life

Born on February 21, 1875 in Arles, France
Photo via jeannecalment.com

Madame Jeanne Calment died on August 4, 1997 at a phenomenal age of 122. If she were alive today, she would be 133 years old. These days, even with the benefits of an improved health and medical system, it is considered a blessing when people reach the age of 70 or 80. If they reach 100 and beyond, that is a miracle.

I have been studying the life Mme. Calment lived, and I would like to enumerate some of the notable lifestyle habits she espoused. In doing so, maybe we can all learn something from her.
  1. Relaxed Lifestyle - she married a prosperous store owner and never had to work in all her life. While she could have chosen to remain sedentary, she chose an active lifestyle and engaged in sports activities like tennis, swimming, and roller-skating. She even joined hunting parties organized by her husband. She took up fencing when she was 85, and enjoyed bicycling until the age of 100. She also loved walking and was always seen walking all over Arles, her home city located in the south of France.

  2. Lived Alone Until Age 110 - but was not lonely because she had an active lifestyle. She was moved to a nursing home when she was 110. She always complained of the food served in the nursing home, saying it always "tasted the same."

  3. Outlived Everyone - she outlived: [1] Vincent Van Gogh, the famous painter whose centenary was the reason why the world discovered her; [2] her husband, Fernand, who died at 74, after eating a dessert prepared with spoiled cherries; [3] her only child and daughter Yvonne, who died at age 36 in 1934 from pneumonia; [4] her only grandson, Frederic, who was a doctor who died at age 36 like her mother, because of an automobile accident in 1960; and finally, she outlived [5] Andre-Francois Raffray, a lawyer, who, when Mme. Calment was merely 90, bought the apartment she used to live in on a contingency contract. The agreement was that he would pay her 2,500 francs a month until she died, and then the apartment would become his. But, irony of ironies! Monsieur Raffray died at 77, in 1996, after paying Mme. Calment more than $180,000, or more than double the apartment's market value!

  4. Chocolates, Port Wine, and Olive Oil - she would eat more than two pounds of chocolate a week, drink port wine, and pour olive oil on all her food. She would also treat her skin with olive oil to maintain its youtful appearance.

  5. Smoked Until She Was 117! - I think she would have lived longer had she decided to quit earlier. Why did she quit? She could no longer see well enough to light her cigarettes.

  6. Immune To Stress - she had a great outlook and sense of humor in life. She did not let life's problems (or maybe she had less encounters with difficult problems) put her down.

  7. Quotable Quotes - here are some of my favorite quotes from her:
    "I see badly, I hear badly, and I feel bad, but everything's fine." "Death doesn't frighten me; now I can think peacefully of ending a long life.""Excuse me if I'm clinging on to life, but my parents wove me from tight thread." "I think I will die laughing." "I took pleasure when I could. I acted clearly and morally and without regret. I'm very lucky." "I'd like to go to the Moon." "Not having children is one less worry. Children are a worry!" "I've only got one wrinkle, and I'm sitting on it." "If you can't do anything about it, don't worry about it."
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