By Mayara Guimaraes / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Wednesday, January 30, 2013, 8:57 PM
No illusion: magic class is just one of hundreds of offerings that have seniors entranced by programs at the YM/YWHA
Center counts nearly 260 activities from yoga to ballroom dancing and magic. Any Manhattan resident who is at least 60 is welcome. Classes are free, thanks to funding from the city Department for the Aging
Mastering magic tricks can help develop dexterity, coordination and focus, as well as boost confidence. It’s also a heckuva lot of fun, participants say.
On a recent weekday morning at the YM/YWHA Center on Nagle Ave., 15 students — each at least 60 years old — are busily showing their teacher that they’ve mastered the art of making a handkerchief disappear into thin air.
The teacher, magician Gary Dreifus, says that magic is “all about one thing: misconception.” Putting that into practice, he tells his charges, will give them a kind of power they probably never knew they had.
But the one thing the pupils say they have taken from these classes is happiness. And that’s no misconception.
“I come here to have fun,” said Susan Obermayer, a Washington Heights resident for more than 60 years. “I like showing it to my grandkids, but honestly I come because it is so much fun,” she says.
Milady Nunez, an Inwood resident all her life, agrees.
“Gary is so funny,” she says. “I come to get some good laughs out of me.”
It makes sense: Who wouldn’t want to crack wise and socialize while learning a new hobby?
Magic is one of dozens of offerings for adults introduced by Patricia Cipora Harte, the director of the Center for Adults Living Well at the “Y” since January 2012.
The center now counts nearly 260 activities — an average of 10 to 12 per day — from yoga to ballroom dancing and magic. Any Manhattan resident who is at least 60 is welcome. Classes are free, thanks to funding from the city Department for the Aging, and the center provides breakfast two days each week.
A group of nurses, occupational therapists, social workers and other volunteers keep the center coursing with action from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sundays through Fridays.
Harte, 61, who worked for the JCC Association before she came to the “Y,” said she was eager to get Dreifus to make uptown his next destination.
After attending a presentation by the magician in which he described the benefits of his class, she decided that it would be a good fit.
“That is how my mind works,” Harte says. “I am a programmer, a social worker. I think you can never rest on what you have done in the past. You always have to stretch yourself and think about how you can make it new and fresh.
“I am always thinking different classes and activities to offer,” adds Harte, noting that she recently wrote a grant to introduce English as a Second Language classes in combination with citizenship seminars. The program will begin in March.
Dreifus, 59, an award-winning magician who has been practicing and performing since his days at James Madison High School in Brooklyn, says his classes can improve students’ coordination and focus, among other benefits.
“Teaching magic tricks . . . can allow mature adults to experience success as well as change the way they believe others perceive them, and help them with social acceptance,” he says.
One student, Rise Klein, recounts a family dinner in which she was the center of attention, demonstrating that the magician’s claims are more than mere illusion.
“Everybody was impressed and trying to figure out my tricks,” Klein says. “I had so much fun.”