By Joyce Wayne
I can’t imagine anything could get in Susan William’s way. She’s the creator and publisher of Booming Encore, a site for those born between 1946 and 1964. Williams launched Booming Encore almost ten years ago. In 2022, along with managing this lively and informative website, , she began running. The day I spoke with Williams from her home in Montreal, she ran for two miles without stopping.
After 28 years of working in senior leadership roles, Williams departed the corporate world and said she was “in a state of personal transition.” Like many of us, she couldn’t find pools of reputable sources brimming with reliable information to help construct a new later life.
Undaunted, Williams launched Booming Encore, aimed at those approaching or starting retirement. She would research, ask questions and write, helping to fill the gaps in knowledge and reliable information and the evolving ideas about the retirement years. According to Williams, directly after retiring, for most, there is a six-month honeymoon stage —until the newly retired begin searching for what they want to do for the rest of their lives. That’s where her site becomes a gold mine of balanced and researched information for fresh ideas about aging. Susan co-authored the book Retirement Heaven or Hell: 9 Principles for Designing Your Ideal Post-Career Lifestyle, written with Mike Drak and Rob Morrison and was also a contributor to the book Longevity Lifestyle by Design. Both of these books focus on dealing with this later life stage and designing and making the transition to a purposeful and enjoyable life.
More than 55 percent of Canadians do not get to decide when to retire. Retirement, in the majority of cases, is forced. “The challenge for many,” Williams says, “is discovering a new identity unconnected to work.” In the past, people most often lived their entire lives by retirement age. Today the situation is entirely different. In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt set the retirement age at 65. That was when life expectancy was 62. Today many of us live another 30 years post-retirement with decades to enjoy new purposes and interests.
According to Williams, the pandemic brought the idea of aging with purpose into focus. “Everyone,” she says, “needs a reason to get out of bed in the morning. We’re all looking for our retirement years to be meaningful.” Health comes first, then having the finances to do what you want. At the same time, in Canada, the average number of hours older Canadians sit in front of the television each week is 47. “All that talent going to waste when our age group could be making a difference doing something like volunteering or mentoring,” remarks Williams.
In her own words, Williams was not a journalist or writer by training; these writing skills were accumulated during the last 28 years. “I’m still picking up skills,” she says. For her, it’s curiosity, a love of learning, the excitement of finding and sharing new ideas, and challenging old perceptions that keep older Canadians moving both physically and mentally.
In November, when Williams turned 59, she was struggling with a “Covid hangover.” She realized she was limiting herself and starting to disengage. Many of us can identify as we found it easier to stay home rather than connect with friends and family. Instead of disengaging, she decided to do 60 different things before she turned 60.
60 things to do before 60
Williams’ 60 before 60 Project is a treat to discover. On the Booming Encore website you can find an update of the activities Williams has enjoyed since beginning the project —and what a list it is:
#3: Conquering My Fear in Virtual Reality – From 27 Stories High
#6: Go to Church
#9: Unplug from Social Media for 1 Week
#10: Stop Drinking for a Month for Dry January
#12: Visit a Museum
#13: Participate in a Cultural Event
If you’re anything like me, you’ll take a long look at this list, take a deep breath, and begin to build your own personal challenge list. If I followed in Williams’ footsteps, not only would I be more physically fit, I would also be enjoying new experiences, facing down long-held fears, and travelling a little farther from home than I have during the pandemic.
Aging can box us into a corner, one where the media’s profile of aging reflects us as too tired and dull to enjoy the world, make new discoveries, or engage in encore careers. Yet, we have the power to overcome these stereotypes and to create a retirement life that is both purposeful, stimulating and healthy. William’s website Booming Encore will help you to get there.