The Freebird Club, a newly established company based on the principles of the new sharing economy, scooped the overall winner of the first Smart Ageing Innovation Awards last night. The Awards, ran by Ireland Smart Ageing Exchange (ISAX) and supported by Bank of Ireland celebrate the new world of Smart Ageing Innovations across multiple categories including; Homes & Housing, Food & Drink, Travel and Tourism, Ingenuity, Health and Wellbeing. Over 200 invited guests, including An Tánaiste, Frances Fitzgerald were in attendance at College Green, House of Lords, Dublin to witness the Awards.
The Smart Ageing Innovation Awards were open for submissions from start-ups and small businesses with 30 employees or less who have designed and developed products and services that enhance the lives of any age group 50+. The Freebird Club, a Dublin based company founded by Peter Mangan, is a travel-based social club for older adults globally. Operating as a homestay club, it allows members with spare rooms to rent them out to fellow members who wish to travel and meet like-minded people. In doing so it offers a whole new way of travelling for older adults, a means to unlock asset value in their homes and earn extra income, and a fun, accessible way to meet new people and enjoy social and cultural interaction in later life.
Speaking at the presentation of the Awards, An Tánaiste, Frances Fitzgerald said: "The ongoing improvements in population longevity mean that the potential of the global smart ageing market is huge. However, few countries have the kind of leadership required to help businesses exploit this new area of opportunity. Through the work of ISAX in bringing together businesses, academic institutions and government agencies, Ireland is well placed to become an International test bed for smart-aging innovations. The role of ISAX in supporting businesses develop new solutions through the Smart Ageing Innovation Awards is commendable, and I was impressed by the calibre of entries this year. Whilst all entrants are winners there is one business that stood out to the judges and I congratulate The Freebird Club on that achievement."
Speaking at the awards MC and successful entrepreneur Bobby Kerr said: "I am delighted to support the Smart Ageing Innovation Awards in association with Bank of Ireland. I have enjoyed being part of an awards platform specifically designed to reward those in the smart ageing economy and I congratulate all the finalists. I look forward to meeting Peter Langan and team at our mentor session and am excited by the opportunities The Freebird Club opens up."
Dawn Bailey, Head of Seniors Banking, Bank of Ireland said: "Ireland is one of the first countries in the world to transform a major societal challenge such as population ageing into a strategic business opportunity and Bank of Ireland are delighted to support the first ISAX Smart Ageing Innovation Awards. We are committed to supporting Irish business and as the Smart Ageing Economy continues to grow we look forward to working with ISAX in the future and to continue to drive business innovation among this growing demographic."
Anne Connolly, CEO, ISAX said: "We urgently need new products and technologies that prevent the chronic diseases of old age, that keep people out of acute hospitals and staying living in their own homes and communities. We want our older populations to be and to feel safe – at home and when out and about. Our workplaces, cities, transport systems, municipal authorities and educational institutions will have to adapt to a world in which those aged 60+ will outnumber those under 15 for the first time in human history. The challenges are enormous, but they also represent opportunities to develop and commercialise solutions that address those needs."
Connolly added; "Growing a strong pipeline of scientifically ambitious and IP significant start-ups is a key element of a thriving smart ageing ecosystem. For that reason we commissioned TechIreland to complete a mapping of the new smart ageing companies in Ireland to assess the strength of that pipeline. The report’s objective is to draw attention to the new business opportunities that exist in the rapidly growing smart ageing economy and to spotlight the innovation that’s already happening in this market in Ireland. We are delighted that the awards have surfaced some of the breakthrough solutions needed."