Club putting over 50s first

Social club for retired helping to build new friendships

Peter Mangan, founder of the ‘Freebird Club’ and his father Owen pictured in Owen’s home on Annadale Road In Killorglin; Peter and the club are getting ready to welcome 12 older visitors from the London Irish Centre who will stay with ‘Freebird’ hosts in Killorglin and Kenmare this weekend. Photo by Dominick Walsh
Peter Mangan, founder of the ‘Freebird Club’ and his father Owen pictured in Owen’s home on Annadale Road In Killorglin; Peter and the club are getting ready to welcome 12 older visitors from the London Irish Centre who will stay with ‘Freebird’ hosts in Killorglin and Kenmare this weekend. Photo by Dominick Walsh

Fergus Dennehy

What started out as a simple meet and greet between his father and new guests at his rented home in Glenbeigh, has now grown into a fully fledged business for Killorglin man, Peter Mangan.

Peter, away working in a university in Dublin, had a home in Glenbeigh laying vacant and so, like all business men, saw an opportunity and ran with it. 

His father, Owen, a retired veterinarian and a widower, had the free time to meet with the guests that would come and stay in the house on Peter's behalf; what happened next, though, came as welcome surprise to Peter.

"Some older couples and guests began to come and stay in the house over a couple of months and so because of the age similarities between Dad and them, the level of social interaction was much more significant," said Peter talking to The Kerryman on Monday.

"He would bring them to the pub for a local trad sesssion, do a bit of sightseeing with them and even have dinners together. It was brilliant for Dad, it was a great social outlet for him," Peter continued.

As a result of the positive changes he was seeing in his father, Peter realised that he could encapsulate and replicate this enriching experience for the benefit of older adults everywhere. 

So, in early 2017, the 'Freebird Club' was officially launched and Peter hasn't looked back since.

"I saw that there was something there in the ageing space that was providing new opportunities for older people to connect and enjoy each others company," he added.

"For me, this is all about helping to build and promote positive communication and friendship along older people in our community," Peter explained. 

How 'Freebird Club' works is simple - to travel or host via Freebird, you have to first become a member of the Freebird club at www.thefreebirdclub.com for which there is a once off joining fee of €25.

Those looking to become hosts can then list their available accommodation on the site; hosts will be asked then to upload photos of their home, local area, standard information about the property and the price per night they wish to charge. After this, they will then appear in the list of available hosts for guests looking to visit their particular area; anyone just simply wanting to use the 'Freebird Club' to travel - they can just search the places they would like to visit and choose the most suitable host and accomdation to suit them. 

The club is hosting its first big experiment this week as they welcome 12 visitors the London Irish Centre into Kerry airport on Friday. Six people will stay with host families in Killorglin while the other six will travel to visit the Kenmare area. 

"We have some activities planned out for them, like the Biddy's Festival in Killorglin, the Gap of Dunloe in Killarney, going to the local pubs, going out for dinner," said Peter.

"Our hope would be that all of these groups, that would coninue the friendship and positive communications after the trip through emails, letters or phonecalls," he added.

Kerryman

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