Time: 45-60 minutes


This activity is designed to help family members gain a better sense of the food items eaten when each generation was growing up. Hopefully, this will serve as a prelude for deeper discussion aimed at enhancing intergenerational communication and cooperation.


General Objective

Participants will identify food and nutrition practices of different generations.

Specific Objectives

Participant will be able to:

  • Distinguish between the cooking equipment, household appliances, and food-related paraphernalia used in the various time periods with which other family members are familiar.
  • On the basis of such equipment and appliances used in different eras, describe distinctions in the food and nutrition habits of people who were alive during these periods.


  • 3 tables or stations at which groups could gather
  • Pens or pencils
  • Sheets of paper
  • Three large envelopes
  • Pictures of historically diverse, food-related items to put in time capsule (e.g., an old fashioned stove, George Forman grill, microwave, pizza, popcorn, soda, farmer, McDonalds brochure, etc.)
  • (Optional) Can bring in your own pictures of kitchen tool (or even the tools themselves).


  1. Set up three separate "stations," each at a different table or area of the room. At each station place a set of the pictures of food-related items.

    Handout 2-2: Food Time Capsule Images

  2. Divide participants into two or three groups so that each group is as mono-generational as possible. If older adults are in the program, the groups can be youth, young and middle-aged adults, and older adults.
  3. Ask each group to go to one station and select 8 items to put in a time capsule that represents their time period and generation. The time capsule should include items that reflect the practices, beliefs, and customs of each age group.
  4. Once all groups are finished, have each group circulate to the other stations to review and compare the different time capsule contents. Group A would leave station A and move to station B. Group B would leave station B and move to station C. Group C would leave station C and go to station A. The visitors viewing the time capsule would pretend they came upon the time capsule 100 years after the fact and describe what kind of generation/people lived at that time and their food and eating lifestyles.
  5. After reviewing the contents at this station, ask the monogenerational groups to describe in 20 words or less, what the generation of the other group was/is like. Have them write this down or draw a picture, a cartoon, a song, or poem that describes this generation's views about food. Groups should feel free to express their humor when writing the description. Once finished, they should put the description in the envelope at that station.
  6. Then, have the groups rotate to another station and follow the same procedure for describing the time capsule generation. (Note -- Monogenerational groups should NOT look at the written descriptions of previous reviewers.)
  7. They should then go back to the large group and sit down. Have the facilitator collect the descriptions, mix them up, and read them to the entire group. The groups can then guess what time period or generation is being described.

    FYI -- This activity can be "light, witty, and fun." No group should take the descriptions so seriously that they get offended. The facilitator, at the end of this activity, should encourage some open discussion from the whole group about:
    • Any misperceptions that were found in the descriptions.
    • How accurately people of different generations understand each other in terms of how they eat, cook and live.
    • How each generation can express itself better in order to reduce misunderstandings or misperceptions.

      Other questions that can be used to stimulate intergenerational discussion, are:
    • Knowing what you know now about the effect of food and nutrition on health, what changes might you suggest to the time capsules of these 3 different generations to improve the health of those generations?
    • What are some of the similarities and differences between the generations in terms of: favorite foods, efforts made to eat healthfully, and how decisions are made about what to eat?
    • What is the most important thing you want people of age groups other than your own to know about you and those in your general age group?
    • Anybody have ideas about what can be done today, right now, to reduce any misunderstandings or inaccurate assumptions about one another? How about to promote more open communication?

Contact Us

Matthew Kaplan, Ph.D.
  • Professor, Intergenerational Programs and Aging

Contact Us

Matthew Kaplan, Ph.D.
  • Professor, Intergenerational Programs and Aging