Cromer pensioner swaps cruising for skyping to contact family

Great-great grandma Wynne Rendall had never used a computer a month ago - but now she's skyping and emailing her far-flung family around the world.

Thanks to a few lessons at her home in Cromer, Mrs Rendall, 93, has gained the confidence to invest in her own laptop computer and uses it to contact her three children in Australia, Canada and South Africa, almost daily.

'It's wonderful. I can see them and catch up with their latest news – and it's saved me a lot of time and money,' said Mrs Rendall who was forking out some �1,500 for an annual cruise to Australia in order to see her son Ben and his wife Gay.

She is among 14 senior-citizen residents at Holmecolne House, on Cromer's Louden Road, who have been taking advantage of computers and tuition made available through a government Get Digital grant, aimed at introducing the over-60s to new technology.

'I couldn't even use my DVD player – let alone a computer – but I'm a good knitter!' said Mrs Rendall. 'I haven't had any formal tuition since I left school aged 14. I was interested and looking forward to learning because I had the incentive that it would help me keep in touch with my family.

'It's been a real privilege at my age that people want to teach me something – I feel I should be on the scrapheap.'

Mrs Rendall said her son and both daughters all wanted her to go and live with them but she couldn't bear the thought of leaving Cromer, which has been her home since 1962.

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Speaking via skype - using an internet phone link and camera - from his home near Brisbane, Ben Rendall, 67, said it was 'absolutely fantastic' that his mother had mastered computer use.

His wife added: 'She can see the grandchildren instantly, without having to wait for photos to be sent through the post.' The couple had also been able to reassure Mrs Rendall that, apart from a flooded creek on their land, they had not been affected by the devastating floods which have wreaked havoc in other parts of Queensland.

Mrs Rendall, who has 10 grandchildren, 26 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild, is now starting to use email to contact her daughter Jan Bregazzi, 69, in Calgary, Canada, and has been skyping her daughter, Prof Sue Rendall, 60, who has travelled to South Africa in search of a retirement property. Dorrie Pilon, house manager at Holmecolne House, said the �4,000 Get Digital grant had bought two computers and software for communal use by residents, plus tuition for beginners and a planned second phase of workshops, expanding on basic knowledge to teach areas including digital photography, use of social networking – including Facebook and Titter – and downloading music from iTunes.

Tutor Dave Parkhouse hopes there will be opportunities for more over-60s to learn about computers at events all over Cromer being planned as part of national Silver Surfers' Day on May 21.

'It's amazing to see what it can do for people,' he said.