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Jeanne Calment

Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment lived in an apartment in the small town of Arles in France. In 1965, aged 90, she signed an en viager agreement to sell her apartment to lawyer François Raffray. En Viager agreements, which are common in France, are an arrangement whereby an owner transfers ownership of their home but are allowed to continue to live there until they die. The purchaser does not pay a lump sum as with a conventional sale, but, instead, agrees to make a monthly payment to the seller until they die, at which point the purchaser takes possession of the home for no additional payment. At the time of the agreement, the value of Madame Calment’s apartment was equal to ten years of payments.

Unfortunately for Raffray, who was age 47 at the time of the agreement, Madame Calment went on to become the oldest living person ever, eventually dying in 1997 at the age of 122 years 164 days. Raffray never gained possession of the apartment. He died of cancer in December 1995, at the age of 77, leaving his widow to continue the payments for twenty more months.

In 1990, the centenary of the death of Vincent van Gogh, who had lived in Arles, Madame Calment made the news as the last person to have actually met him. In 1992 she gave up smoking but then restarted a year later, simply because, “Once you've lived as long as me, then they can’t tell you not to smoke.”

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