Wednesday, 27 April, 2016
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We are very excited to bring you news of an inspiring new Irish initiative called The Freebird Club. Due to launch in Summer 2016, this social enterprise will be a travel-based social network for older adults. It will operate as a peer-to-peer social travel and homestay club which offers a whole new way of travelling for older adults.

Fairtloughs & guest Michael Carolan Freebird

Picture: (L-R) Peter Mangan, Michael Carolan from London who stayed with  Mary & Barry Fairtlough in County Kerry

Making this a fun world to grow old in!

As we face longer and healthier lives, the opportunity to travel and experience new places and cultures in our later years is greatly increased and can bring a wonderful quality and richness to time spent with other individuals, families and friends.

However obstacles such as loneliness and isolation, financial insecurity and a lack of travel options for older people can mean that a much-longed-for trip simply doesn't happen.

Founded in Dublin by Peter Mangan, along with "tech" developer Nga-Hong Lau, The Freebird Club offers a solution to issues faced by older people who wish to travel and/or meet new people. It does this by way of a customised "age-friendly" web platform that enables older adults engage in peer-to-peer homestays and vacations with fellow older adults through an online membership club. This follows the host/guest model, whereby 'hosts' make their spare rooms available to fellow members to come and stay for a nightly rate. Through this, hosts can unlock some of the asset value of their homes and generate an income in later life. Pictured on right: Founder Peter Mangan

As an Irish start-up founder, Peter Mangan is particularly keen to connect our 'older' diaspora, both with Ireland and with each other. Speaking with Ireland Reaching Out, Peter said,

"We saw from the success of The Gathering how popular the notion of 'returning home' is to our diaspora. What we are hoping to do is create an ongoing 'Gathering effect' for our senior diaspora, offering them a genuine welcoming route back by being able to connect and stay with their peers in Ireland. There is no doubt that many still feel that attachment to their place of origin, but for many older diaspora their personal links to that home-place can be tenuous at best. The Freebird Club can help them re-create those links, offering them not just a place to stay there, but new friends to stay with."

The main difference from other homestay models is that Freebird prioritises the social aspect, in that visits always involve staying with the host present. This is key to the concept, which focuses as much on the sharing of company as the accommodation. The Freebird Club will facilitate matching travellers and hosts based on shared interests and compatibility, rather than just a nice place to stay.

What next?

The web platform has been developed, a live pilot between Ireland & UK has been completed, involving guests from London staying with hosts in Peter's hometown of Killorglin, County Kerry. The Freebird Club has just won the European Social Innovation Competition, with a prize fund of €50,000 and is ready to take flight this summer!

Winner - European Social Innovation Competition 2015

Growth plans

The initial focus is on Ireland & the UK, where they are developing strategic relationships and market awareness. Following on from this, they plan to expand their reach throughout Europe, the US & beyond. An important part of their growth plan is to leverage strategic relationships with key international stakeholders and partners, notably organisations that promote positive ageing and have an interest in the well-being of older adults. They have a special interest in connecting senior diaspora with their peers "back home", which for us builds upon the Ireland Reaching Out mission of connecting people of Irish heritage with their place of origin in Ireland.

The founding team of Peter Mangan (CEO) and Nga-Hong Lau (CTO) bring significant experience, expertise and passion to the project. While both working in University College Dublin (Peter in Research Management; Nga-Hong in User Experience/Web Design), they came together over a shared interest in solving social problems associated with the ageing population. The team has recently expanded to include several bright young interns as well as some wise older hands to steady the ship.

How you can help

This Irish start-up has recently entered the Richard Branson VOOM competition, under the Impact category.  This category is for businesses that put social and environmental impact at the heart of their business. It is looking for business ideas with solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. By voting and supporting The Freebird Club pitch, you can directly help the business to grow and reach its potential for positive social impact.

Click here to vote for the Freebird Club in the VOOM Impact category

Watch this space!

We are more than excited about The Freebird Club, and will be bringing you news of its launch as soon as it is live.  To add you email address to The Freebird Club mailing list, visit their site here.