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Scientists predict the first person to live to 200 has already been born. Just imagine what you could achieve. How would living longer change us? And how do you even plan a financial future that long?

Our new future-facing podcast, The 200 Year Old, explores a post-ageing world through the eyes of Lesedi Ndaba – the world’s first 200 year old. Set in 2218 and starring Thapelo Mokoena (Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom) and Nambitha Mpumlwana (Generations), everything you hear is based on current science and future forecasts by leading experts on longevity and the world of the future.


Meet the 200 year old

When we’re first introduced to Lesedi, she has the physical appearance of a 60 year old. That may sound strange, but in 2218, ageing, as we know it now, has been cured. Her great, great, great, great, great grandson, Sam, is quite used to the idea of radical life-extension (it’s the year 2218, after all). He’s more curious as to how Lesedi managed to plan for a much, much longer career, when the concept of money and work had changed so drastically over the years.

But is it scientifically possible to live to 200?

Dr Aubrey De Grey of the SENS Research Foundation is one of the anti-ageing pioneers that helped develop the first range of treatments to repair cell damage caused by ageing. This resulted in a generation of human beings who are still functioning at the same physical and mental capacity of a young adult, due to the wear and tear process not occurring. This research was not rooted in trying to make humans live forever, but rather in minimising the unwanted symptoms associated with old age.

Lesedi was one of the first participants to take part in a clinical trial for longevity treatments. She was considered a successful candidate for the trial because she tested positive for the FoxO3A gene, pre-eminent in most people who live over 100. At first, Lesedi only had a small chance of living much longer than anyone else. But, over time, new medical developments meant that she was likely to be physically and mentally healthy for an extraordinarily long time, especially if she paired it with a healthy diet and exercise.

“So, we will be able to take this 90 year old who's biologically 60 for the second time and re-rejuvenate them so they won't be biologically 60 for the third time until they're 150.”
– Dr Aubrey De Grey (2018)

Longevity: A blessing and a burden

The concept of longevity, and the opportunities and challenges it presents, leaves Sam with the thought that radical life extension is both an extraordinary adventure and a heavy burden to those experiencing it. Although Lesedi’s life is rich with fascinating stories, it seems that there is also pain, uncertainty and loss in living for so many years.

I think when people worry about, and try to think about, a society that is post ageing, where we just don’t have these problems of ill health associated with old age any more, then usually the mistake that they make, in fact the hugely overwhelmingly ubiquitous mistake that is made, is to presume that everything else is going to be more or less the same as it is today.” - Dr Aubrey De Grey (2018)

In episode 1 of ‘The 200 Year Old’, experts explore the concept of a society where things like pensions and retirement may not even exist. Where shifts towards renewable energy, advanced food systems and the distribution of wealth changes, and as automation transforms the way we work and build careers.

At Sanlam, we’ll continue to look ahead at what fundamental changes might take place in the world, so we can build a better world for generations to come.

Subscribe to the full podcast

This podcast is fiction, set in a projected future. Based on current scientific research, it is supplemented by the opinions of present day experts. The expert opinions referenced in these podcasts are those of the experts themselves and do not necessarily reflect the official views of Sanlam.

To find out more about the research that went into this episode, ask The 200 Year Old a question on Twitter @200YearOld.



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