New research presented at the Royal Geographical Society international conference in London highlights the work done by both museums in Glasgow and the north east of England at a time when public healthcare spending is being cut.
In Glasgow, "handling kits" are loaned by the municipal Open Museum to care homes, with dementia sufferers getting involved in creative projects to help spark their memories.
Glasgow University's Dr Ealasaid Munro and Nuala Morse of Durham University will tell the conference that the projects are being developed to reach out to individuals being failed elsewhere, particularly as a result of spending cuts.
Dr Munro said: "In a time of national austerity, museums have to prove their relevance and to show that they are contributing to a healthier and happier society.
"It's about how we squeeze budgets to get people involved, how we get communities into museums which are plugging gaps in the system."
A spokesman for Glasgow Life, which runs the civic museums in the city, said: "The Open Museum is about connecting people with objects from our collections. That our reminiscence kits can help people facing dementia to connect with their past and improve their wellbeing is an outstanding example of the value of the service."