Our History

The First Established Council on Aging

The Needham Council on Aging, the first formally established Council on Aging (COA) in Massachusetts, was brought into existence by a vote of Town Meeting members on October 10, 1957, primarily through the efforts of Dr. Dorothea Willgoose.

Dr. Dorothea Willgoose

In a day when there were few women physicians, Dr. Willgoose was a pioneer and a perceptive, energetic Needham resident who contributed to the establishment of Needham agencies serving all ages. However, her special interest was in meeting the needs of Needham's elder residents.

In 1962, when she was appointed chairperson, the COA began to offer an Information and Referral Center for Needham elders that was open for three hours on three weekdays in space donated by the YMCA.

Progression of the Center

Two years later the center moved to the basement of Town Hall and became a drop-in center open five days a week with staff that offered:

  • Day trips
  • A shoppers' bus
  • Health lectures
  • Keep Well Clinics
  • Counseling
  • Legal assistance
  • Referrals
  • Social activities
  • Traveling meals
  • Volunteer drivers

Stephen Palmer Senior Center

In 1974 the urgent need for a larger, affordable space led to an initial request to the town of Needham for space in the newly planned Stephen Palmer apartment building. Five years later on October 2, 1979, the Stephen Palmer Senior Center officially opened its doors in the building's basement with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

With this space came the recognition of the greater service responsibilities of the department. The Town Meeting authorized expanding the two part time Council on Aging staff positions to full time.

Center At The Heights

In 2008 a Senior Center Exploratory Committee was organized to provide the needed information such as site, space needs and possible financial implications of a new senior center. In 2010, the Needham Town Meeting voted to appropriate funds for the design of a new senior center and in the fall of 2011 the funds for construction were approved. The Friends of the Center At The Heights (formerly Friends of the Needham Elderly) conducted fundraisers in an effort to provide enhancements not included under town authorization.

On April 6, 2014, a dedication ceremony was held for the opening of the new 20,000 square foot senior center, named the Center At The Heights.

Establishment of Friends of The Center At The Heights

The Friends of the Center At The Heights was established to assist the Council on Aging by raising or obtaining funds or property for various programs and activities offered, which were not being fully funded or supported by federal, state, or local government agencies.

Enthusiasm for Current & Future Efforts

Since 1979,  we have continued to expand the variety of social, recreational, educational and service program. The enthusiasm of the Council on Aging Board, Advisory Committee, staff, volunteers, Friends, participants, and supportive friends continues to help us achieve our goals and fulfill our mission so that we can meet the needs of Needham's growing population of residents over the age of 60 and their families.