SHOPPERS in Swindon have backed suggestions that a public health campaign encouraging people to learn a new language would help stave off the disease.

Health officials have said that such a campaign, similar to the five-a-day fruit and veg requirement, would go some way towards tackling dementia.

Top neuroscientist Thomas Bak earlier this week told The Times that keeping the brain agile by switching between languages warded off mental decline.

He said: “There’s no question that there’s an advantage to learning languages when young, that children can learn things better, but the older you get the more important it is to have both mental and physical exercise.”

Dr Bak concluded: “Just because children pick thing sup easier, it doesn’t mean we should give up later in life; the opposite, it’s more important.”

In response, people of all ages have fully supported Dr Bak’s suggestion that a national campaign should be started.

Chaz Sutherford, 37, from North Swindon, who works in the care sector, said: “It’s a fantastic idea. I think anything like that which keeps your mind active is a good thing and I think people would benefit from it.

“I don’t speak any other languages, but I may have a go if I start to feel myself going a bit funny in later life.”

Martin Gregory, 68, from Eldene, also thought it a great idea that a national campaign be launched.

He said: “I don’t know much about those things, but it sounds like it would help.

“I think we could all really benefit from a few public health campaigns to keep our bodies and minds active, and this should be good for older people.”

There are many dementia and Alzheimer’s charities and support groups in Swindon, all of whom receive a lot of help from members of the public.

Earlier this month, dementia experts rolled into Wharf Green as part of a roadshow organised by the Alzheimer’s Society.

It was intended to raise awareness of the condition and the charity’s work to tackle it.

Speaking in general terms about raising awareness of the disease, Alex Parker, who co-ordinates the charity’s Side by Side befriending service in Swindon, said: “Sometimes people just need a better understanding of dementia — it’s a subject that until recently hasn’t really been talked about enough.

“But that is changing, people aren’t hiding away any more and they do want to talk about it.”