Planning a Healthy Independence Day Picnic for Seniors

  • July 01, 2017

Everyone loves a picnic. For seniors, however, the tradition of celebrating the Fourth of July with an outdoor spread surrounded by loved ones holds special joy. If you’re planning to celebrate the nation’s birth with a picnic this week, here’s what you need to know so nobody gets sick.

It’s a Picnic — What Could Happen?

A picnic in the park (or on the front lawn) isn’t the most dangerous way to spend the Fourth of July. Many people celebrate with firecrackers, after all! 

That may leave you wondering why you need to be thinking about health and safety when you’re merely planning a fun picnic for seniors

But sparklers and quarterstick firecrackers aren’t the only dangers associated with this holiday week. 

There’s also the common threat of food poisoning. 

Food-borne bacteria love picnics, too. The warm weather is their ideal environment. And as most of us have witnessed at one time or another, people tend to leave food out in the open for long periods of time at picnics. 

Here’s how to protect your picnic-ers from foodborne illness as you celebrate Independence Day.

Proper Picnic Containers are Key

A lot of time can pass between the time you take your picnic food out of the fridge and the time it’s placed on the picnic table. That’s often enough time for bacteria to begin to thrive. 

There’s another reason to use proper containers when transporting your food. 

Those containers serve double duty. They help keep food at ideal temperatures during transport and they also serve to keep food cool throughout the duration of the picnic. 

Here are some guidelines for packing and storing the picnic food:
  • Pack food in a cooler with frozen gel packs or plenty of ice. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration says to aim for an internal cooler temperature of 40°F to prevent bacteria from growing. 
  • Pack extra ice. Cars become hot in summer. The internal temperature of your vehicle can quickly change the temperature of food. Pack food in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs so you can keep things chilled.
  • Use more than one cooler for food. If you’re going to be grilling, pack a separate cooler for the raw meat. This can help prevent cross-contamination of your other picnic food. 
  • Pack a third cooler for drinks. That way, when people continuously reach for cold drinks, they’re not opening the food coolers and letting out all the cold air. 
  • Put a time limit on how long food stays out in the sun. The AARP recommends two hours maximum. If it’s 90°F or higher, allow only one hour. 
More Healthy Picnic Tips for Seniors
  • Use pasteurized eggs. The AARP also recommends only pasteurized eggs for seniors who often have compromised immune systems. This may help reduce the risk of salmonella. 
  • Wash hands. People often forget about washing hands before handling food at picnics. That’s a mistake! Bring handi-wipes in case there’s no running water nearby. They’re also handy if running water is located in a spot that’s difficult for seniors with mobility issues to reach. 
  • Leftovers. Pack up uneaten food immediately once everyone has finished eating. Your ice or gel packs will come in handy at this point. Then, once you’re back home, put food in the refrigerator immediately. 
Stay Healthy and Keep up the Tradition!

We hope this has helped you prepare for the Fourth of July festivities you may have planned for this week. We also applaud all caregivers for the efforts they take to provide care for seniors, especially on holidays. 

Here at Five Star Senior Living, we understand the value of traditions like picnics on the Fourth of July. After all, warmth and hospitality are a cornerstone of what we do every day!

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