Business Irish

Monday 16 July 2018

Retirees fly the nest for summer work on campsites abroad

John and Mary Keenan – retired bankers who went to work on a summer camp in France
John and Mary Keenan – retired bankers who went to work on a summer camp in France

Louise Walsh

Two former bankers are among a growing number of retired couples opting to spend the summer working on campsites abroad.

John (62) and Mary (59) Keenan swapped their careers for jobs as mature couriers on a campsite in France after a health scare forced the couple to take stock of their lives.

The Wexford duo are now working for Irish-owned company KelAir at its new campsite in Camping Sol a GoGo in St Jean de Monts in the Vendée region.

Mrs Keenan took early retirement from her job in AIB in 2012 when she was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Mr Keenan then took a redundancy package from his job as an AIB manager a year later. "When Mary got the brain tumour, it really was a wake-up call. We're all mortal. None of us know how long we have in this life so there's no point in having regrets," he said.

Mrs Keenan added: "When I underwent the successful surgery to remove the brain tumour, I knew there was more to do in life.

"We spent our summers with our two boys when they were young on campsites and loved it, so we knew working on one was something we wanted to do.

"Just because you finish a career after 40 years doesn't mean you're washed up. Our boys had flown the nest, we'd paid our mortgage and didn't want to be free, easy and idle. We wanted to go on taking opportunities and venture on a different lifestyle."

The couple, from New Ross, moved on to the French site four months ago, with their dog Ziggy, and say the job has exceeded all expectations. In addition to cleaning and maintaining each mobile home, the couple are on hand to recommend places to eat and see in addition to solving problems.

"We've taken parents and their sick child to the doctor and driven a transport-less resident to and from the local supermarket to do her shopping," said Mary.

"I'd definitely recommend it to any mature couples. It's a very fulfilling experience," said John.

Pearse Keller of Galway-based KelAir said the majority of workers were mature couples. "We find mature couples have more life-experiences which can be valuable when dealing with people and handling problems," he said.

Irish Independent

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