By R. R. Fletcher, Contributing Writer
In Massachusetts, RV sales topped $69.8 million in 2020, according to the RV Industry Association (RVIA), and the average age of most RV travelers is now below 60.
Unfortunately, for many, the realities of aging usually require people to change their lifestyles — giving up their dreams of adventure. But with a bit of planning, most older individuals can remain active and safe in their RV.
Owning and operating an RV can be physically demanding, including climbing in and out of a tall RV, leveling the vehicle, raising the top on pop-up campers, filling and draining tanks, fuel hook-ups, or camp setup. But feeling safe and secure is essential at any age.
Here are three easy modifications for any style RV or motor coach that can minimize risks:
1. Modify interior and exterior steps
Steps are universal when traveling on the road. And if you have hip, knee, or balance issues, steps may cause problems. If you have not purchased your RV yet, look for a single-level floor plan with no steps. If you already have a motor home with steps, here are a few changes that can be done quickly and relatively inexpensively.
Extend exterior steps to the ground for stability. Creating a half-step or platform that assists entry, is also an option. Even when the RV steps are well-anchored, ensure they offer good traction – through all kinds of weather. High traction materials or non-slip tape applied to each step are quick and easy fixes.
Interior steps can be minimized by adding a half-step or platform or converting the inner step into a ramp. Pre-made conversion wedges are easy to fit and customizable.
2. Install handrails everywhere
Handholds are another safety feature for anyone needing a little extra help. Some RV exterior steps come with built-in rails for a safe and secure entry and exit. Most RV handrails are easy to install and store. In addition to an entry rail, place grab bars for easy access into the truck cab or for access to overhead beds, platforms, and storage compartments.
3. Bathroom modifications
Many of the smaller RVs are limited to showers in the bathroom – bathtubs are a luxury. However, factory-installed shower stalls usually have a substantial step-up to get into the unit due to layout and construction styles.
Modifying and replacing these showers with “low-rise” or walk-in style designs can help minimize the risk of falls. Also, if you have the room, choose a shower stall with a sit-down bench to enhance safety.
The bathroom is another place to have grab bars. For added security, opt for installed bars rather than suction bars. And don’t forget the non-slip shower mat or at the very least a few well-placed adhesive anti-slip bath strips for traction. RV bathrooms are designed from tile and fiberglass and can be very slippery.
Do it yourself vs. professional modifications
Many additions and modifications to your RV are quick, easy, and inexpensive. Find a reputable RV dealer or modification company if you feel it’s beyond your capabilities or comfort level. One such company is Timbuktu RV. Founded in 1996 and located in Worcester, Timbuktu RV is a full-service RV Center that provides simple repairs and custom modifications for most RV styles and brands. For the western part of the state, another well-established RV service and sales company is Bob’s Camper in Williamstown. For southeastern Mass., Campers Inn RV in Raynham has been serving the RV community since 1995.
Independent recreational travel remains hugely popular in Massachusetts and beyond. And a few changes can ensure safety on the road at any age.