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WASHIGNTON: Jeanne Louise Calment lived for 122 years and 164 days, the oldest verified age of any person, ever. Her interviews revealed a portrait of the centenarian in high spirits: “I’ve only ever had one wrinkle, and I’m sitting on it,” she told reporters when she turned 110.
Calment died in 1997 in Arles, France, where she spent much of her impressively long life. No one else, according to accurate records, has lived beyond 120 years.
Whether there’s a limit to the human life span is an age-old question. An actuary named Benjamin Gompertz proposed in 1825 that mortality rates accelerate exponentially as we grow older. Under what is known as the Gompertz law, the odds of dying double every eight years. That seems to be the rule for people ages 30 to 80.But researchers disagree about what happens to mortality rates very late in life. A new study, published Thursday in the journal Science, indicates that the Grim Reaper suddenly eases off the accelerator.
“The aim was to settle a controversy about whether human mortality has the same shape as mortality in many other species,” said study author Kenneth Wachter, professor emeritus of demography and statistics at the University of California at Berkeley. Mortality rates have been found to level off in lab animals, such as Mediterranean fruit flies and nematode worms. “We think we have settled it,” he said. Mortality rates accelerate to age 80, decelerate and then plateau between ages 105 to 110, the study authors concluded. The Gompertz law, in this view, ends in a flat line.