MANCHESTER — Turning 77 last fall, Thomas Moore knew his new book "Ageless Soul: The Lifelong Journey Toward Meaning and Joy" would speak to his fellow elders. But to everyone else?
A young man hearing the question had a quick answer.
"I turn 30 next week," he told the author. "This is up my alley."
Moore relates. Born in Detroit in 1940, he studied for the priesthood from ages 13 to 26, only to leave his Roman Catholic order just before ordination to travel the country as a college professor, psychotherapist and bestselling author of such titles as "Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life."
Now settled just across the Vermont border in southwestern New Hampshire, Moore continues to write. The author knows many people will ring in the new year with resolutions to lose weight or gain wealth. But he's ruminating over how to simultaneously focus and fill the rest of his days.
"Almost everyone I know is concerned about growing older," he says. "If I have a problem in my life, I don't write what I already have worked out, I write about the process of sorting it out."
And so Moore has penned his latest book — a 304-page hardcover from St. Martin's Press — and is presenting it in a series of national readings, including one recently at Manchester's Northshire Bookstore.
"I think it's difficult to grow older," he says. "It's not who you feel you are. We have an identity that hasn't aged."
A mirror and growing pile of milestones tell another story. For those caught in-between, Moore offers a few pieces of advice.
"The first," he says, "is acknowledge how old you are."
Moore reassures you don't have to shout your age or stop dyeing your hair. Instead, he wants people to recognize past changes and present circumstances.
"When I use the word 'aging,' I mean becoming more of a person and more you over time," he writes. "If you let life shape you, then as time goes by you will become a richer, more interesting person. That is aging in the style of cheese and wine. In that sense, your very purpose in life is to age, to become what you are; essentially, to unfold and let your inborn nature be revealed."
"In this way of thinking, aging in the deep sense may happen anywhere along the way — you may be 35 and have an experience, learn some facts, or encounter a fascinating person who helps you evolve a step further," he continues. "To age well it isn't enough to have experiences; you have to be affected by them."
Moore's book elaborates with such sections as "Becoming a Deeper Person as You Age," "Imagine Aging Differently" and "Open Your Heart to the Future." The result, he says, will help readers transcend any and all changes in the calendar.
"We are not people simply dominated by time with its unwanted effects," he writes. "We are ageless people, too, participating in a mysterious and wonderful process in which our eternal, unchanging selves — I prefer to call it our soul — become more visible over time. This is the key sign that you are aging and not merely spending time — gradually you discover your original self, your own pristine way of being."
Take Moore's father, who lived to be 100. He grew to need a wheelchair. Even so, "he was a kid at 100," his son remembers.
"Let us be realistic about the downside of growing older, but positive about the joy of aging," the author concludes. "If you simply grow old, passively, you get worse. When you age — active verb — you are proactive. Aging is becoming yourself, becoming more human, becoming a better person. Our task is to be there for the aging, no matter how it shows itself. Our job is to let time make us into something."