Mise à jour : Jeanne Calment doyenne de l'humanité | Salle de presse |  Inserm
Jean Calment

A centenarian is a person who has achieved a hundred or more years of life. Throughout most of human history, it was very rare for people to reach such a great age, because of recurrent famine, war, droughts, plagues and the other afflictions accompanying history. A few people made it to a century in age, through luck and privilege, mostly. 

In the 21st century worldwide there are more than 300,000 people who have made it to the century mark. That means they survived much of their lives in a world without antibiotics and with little knowledge of viruses. But they have lived their lives in a world that equated public health with clean water, efficient sewage and breathable air. 

This large number of centenarians is a huge achievement, and probably equals the total of all centenarians everywhere throughout the whole of human history before current centenarians were born. 

About one in a thousand centenarians will become a super-centenarian, living to a hundred and ten. Several dozen people have made it to 115, and Jean Calment, a Frenchwoman, made it to 122 164 days. There is some tentative evidence that centenarians share a few characteristics. These include a caring community, a low-stress lifestyle, a diet light in meat, eggs and dairy, high levels of activity in old age, and spirituality.

At age 90, Jeanne signed a deal that sold her apartment in return for the right to live there for the rest of her life and 2,500 francs a month. She lived 30 more years.

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