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RETIREMENT

France’s 104-year-old twins say closeness key

When they were born premature in 1912, doctors gave Paulette and Simone the slimmest chance of survival. But 104 years later, the twins say there's a simple secret to their longevity: sticking together.

France's 104-year-old twins say closeness key
Twins Paulette Olivier and Simone Thiot at their retirement home in Onzain. Photo: Gillaume Souvant/AFP
With their long white hair tied back in ponytails and gold spectacles perched on their noses, Paulette Olivier and Simone Thiot are happy to pose for the camera at their retirement home in Onzain, central France.
   
“This will be fun!” they say in chorus.
 
There is no official confirmation that Paulette and Simone are the oldest twins in France, but they appear to be the likely holders of the title.
   
“We're being very spoiled,” one of them says as they show off the flowers given by the local council and fellow retirement home residents to mark their 104th birthday.
   
Paulette and Simone were born in the central village of Limeray at 11:00 am on January 30, 1912 to Marie Lamolie, a dressmaker, and her husband Joseph, a carpenter.
   
Their entry to the world did not bode well.
   
“We were premature,” says Simone, who can still get around these days without the help of a Zimmer frame.
   
“We were due in March but we were born in January. They gave us a very small chance of surviving. I didn't even weigh a kilo. And you, just three pounds,” she says to her sister. “They had to keep us wrapped up for four months.”
   
Paulette, widowed at 36, worked as a hairdresser for 15 years in Algeria, then in Paris. Simone, a dressmaker like her mother, lost her husband when she was 64. Neither had any children.
   
The twins, whose only brother died in accident at the age of 99, insist it's their lasting friendship that has kept them going all this time.
   
“We are still alive because we have always stayed close,” says one. “We keep our independence — each of us has her own room — but we only need to cross the corridor to see and talk to each other.
   
“We pity old people who are alone with no one to visit them.” 
 
Paulette and Simone spend their time keeping up with current affairs, reading, watching television and listening to music.
   
Simone also regularly writes poems which she keeps in a notebook.
   
Any other tips for a long life? “A simple life — no excess. No alcohol. And lots of sport.
   
“We did gymnastics for a long time, and a huge amount of cycling — almost every day.”

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HEALTHCARE

What are the rules on holiday health cover for pensioners in France?

If you're a pensioner living in France and planning a holiday, then the rules around healthcare can get pretty complicated. Here's what you need to know.

What are the rules on holiday health cover for pensioners in France?
Illustration photo: AFP

Having access to France's lauded healthcare system is seen as a positive, even an incentive, to move here once you're retired. 

But in order to make the most of it, you need to first understand the rules – and they aren't always that clear, as one reader who wrote to us pointed out. 

Gordon Spector, a British retiree living in the south west of France said: “From reading relevant online sites I understood that if I was a member of the French healthcare system with a social security number I (and all Britions in same situation as I in France) would be entitled to apply online to the French 'CEAM' European travel health card.”
 
Gordon said he believed that as a resident in France, he would not be entitled to the UK's EHIC card. 
 
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Photo: AFP

But somewhat confusingly there are a few exceptions to the rule regarding EHIC vs. CEAM cards. 
 
The page on the NHS website covering this subjects states that if you live abroad and you:
  • receive a UK State Pension or exportable UK benefit
  • you are a posted or frontier worker
  • or you are living in the EEA and are family member of someone working in the UK
then you need to apply to renew your EHIC by contacting Overseas Healthcare Services. You can find the address under the Living abroad section here, as well as a contact number. 
 
British pensioners in France are registered with their local health authority in France with an S1 form. 
 
This form means that the UK is your ‘competent state' – responsible for funding your healthcare. You are affiliated to the French health system via CPAM and receive health care on the same basis as a French national, but the UK reimburses France for your health care costs.
 
Similarly holding an EHIC card, rather than a CEAM, means that the UK will cover any emergency treatment you need in other EU countries. 
 
 
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