Volunteer vacations have grown in popularity over the past several decades. Today there are hundreds of opportunities to travel to nations around the globe and spend a week or two volunteering for a wide variety of good causes. While some volunteer vacations are designed for young people and families, there are many that are well-suited for retirees.

There are several benefits to a volunteer vacation. There is the rewarding feeling that comes from helping the environment, animals, or people who are less fortunate. Volunteer vacations offer you the opportunity to experience a local culture in a more authentic way than you possibly could by staying at a luxury resort and only seeing famous tourist landmarks. The organizations that offer these vacations handle the planning and logistics, so there are fewer arrangements to be made by you. And since you will travel and work in a small supervised group, you will meet and work with like-minded people in a safe environment.

But all volunteer vacations are not created equally. Here are eight essential tips that will help you select and prepare for a successful volunteer vacation.

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Guest post by Lynn Lotkowictz

In mid-January, I flew from Tampa to Havana on a trip that would introduce me to a country that has been off limits for me (and most Americans) for over 55 years. I participated in a one-week service program in Cuba with Global Volunteers, a non-profit, non-government organization (NGO) based in Minneapolis.

Along with 19 other volunteers ages 30-78, I spent a week on various work projects that included painting a fence at our base (the Cuba Council of Churches), spending time with seniors at a senior care center and working with students on English in an evening program. Another team did crocheting with a women's group for part of the day.

Every afternoon we had a few hours of free time. In the evening we all met for dinner at various locations suggested by our excellent team leader, Stephanie. The trip was a combination of helping our host community and a wonderful cultural learning experience for a group of Americans, most of whom had never been to Cuba.

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You can enjoy an active, happy and fulfilling retirement with the right attitude and thoughtful preparation.

If you are single, you probably have some concerns about your retirement that people with partners are less likely to experience.

If you are married today, consider that someday you may encounter these same concerns if your spouse passes before you do.

With awareness and proper planning, you can address these concerns and be better situated to enjoy a happy and secure retirement.

Here are four ways you can thrive as a single person in retirement:

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Guest post by Riya Sander

Many people look forward to retirement. They expect to catch up on all their projects, get completely organized and do some traveling. A few months or a year later, they may be looking around for new things to do because they're getting bored in retirement. Aside from the tediousness of boredom, being retired can also be a risk factor for depression.

Here are 7 ways you can prevent boredom in retirement.

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Beautiful sunsets are there to be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of income.

Hopefully, by the time you retire you will have saved a sufficient amount of money to be able to live comfortably and do the things you want to do. But if you are facing retirement with less money than you would prefer, don’t despair. It’s important to remember that there’s a lot more to enjoying a happy retirement and a happy life than simply saving enough money. True wealth and happiness come from many sources.

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You can take action now to help ensure that you will have the support you need later.

The number of senior citizens who are single, isolated, and who lack a support system to help them deal with health issues and day-to-day living activities has been increasing, prompting the geriatric care industry to coin the term “Elder Orphan.”

Many factors contribute to the increase in Elder Orphans. People are living longer. Marriage rates in the U.S. have been declining for several decades. More couples are choosing to remain childless, and those that do have children are having fewer of them. As mobility has increased, more families have become dispersed as children moved away from home to pursue careers or as parents retired to warmer locales.

These changing demographic trends are aligning to create a perfect storm for an increase in senior isolation and a greater need for a network of caregivers that comes from outside the family.

Here are seven steps you can take to ensure that you will be better prepared and receive the assistance you need when your ability to live independently decreases. If you have older family members and friends, you can encourage them to take these steps and offer to assist them if appropriate.

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Guest post by Lynn Lotkowictz

About three years ago, at age 62, I was finishing up my media sales management career and realized it was time to move on. My pension was set so I was lucky that I had flexibility. I knew I no longer wanted a full-time job.

Retire? But to what? I don't play golf, crochet, play bridge or enjoy any of those interests my friends do. I adore my grandson and family, but they are 1,200 miles away so a weekend four or five times a year is the best I can do.

Travel, the outdoors, healthy endeavors and children are my passions. In 2013, I started to work on a plan for the next phase of life. The goal was for it to be meaningful and rewarding.

I surfed the internet looking for travel ideas, cost-effective options and different ways that volunteering would be mutually beneficial with my interests, skills and passions. My good friend bought me a book on volunteer travel. In my free time I read, analyzed and sifted through websites and books, and talked with colleagues and friends.

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Staying in shape will enable you to travel and enjoy spectacular sights.

We all know that we should exercise regularly and eat responsibly in order to stay healthy. The benefits are clear: you will live longer, you will have fewer doctor visits and lower medical bills, and you will be better able to travel and go about your daily routine.

But sadly, according to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, only about 30% of adults 65-74 are active.

The problem is that most of us aren’t very good at sticking to things we should do. We are more likely to stay committed to things we want to do. The key to establishing and maintaining a successful exercise regimen is to find the right combination of activities you will enjoy and a reason that is compelling enough to motivate you to stick with it.

You’ve worked hard for your retirement – make sure you are healthy enough to enjoy it. Here are 12 steps to help you succeed at becoming healthier in 2017.
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The internet is awash with advice from retirement planning experts. Interestingly, many people who write retirement advice haven’t retired yet or are relatively recent retirees (like me). Plus, much of the advice you read comes from financial planners. That’s important, of course, but as you know, there’s more to a happy retirement than simply saving enough money.

Wouldn’t it be great to receive advice from some older, more experienced retirees who have spent many years living through the experience?

Recently, I had the opportunity to query some residents of Wake Robin, a life plan community in Shelburne, VT, through Wake Robin’s publicist, Charlotte Longley Lyman. I asked the residents questions such as “What advice would you offer to someone who is preparing to retire now?” and “What was the number one thing you wish you had done when starting the retirement process?”

Here are eight bits of sage advice compiled from their answers. Most of this advice is not ground-breaking or new – you’ve probably heard most of it before. But it’s good to have this advice validated by people who have been there and done that.

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After you retire, your daily life will change in more ways that you probably imagine. There are many changes you won’t realize until you experience them, but forming a clearer picture of your values and how you want to live your life after you retire will help you make better plans and adapt more easily to the changes retirement brings.  It will also give you a clearer picture of what you can look forward to.

The questions that follow will help you sort these things out. If you’re married or partnered, these are good conversations to have together.  You shouldn’t assume that your spouse wants the same things you do.

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