Staff Photo by D. Patrick Harding -- Joe Nivert, left, and Amy McGauley, pedal through their neighborhood on a short afternoon bicycle ride.
When President-elect Barack Obama takes the oath of office Tuesday, he will become the first member of “Generation Jones” to occupy the Oval Office.
Tradition may dictate that, at 47, Mr. Obama is a member of the baby boomer generation, but Generation Jonesers, born in the latter half of the baby boom years, 1954 to 1964, are setting themselves apart from their older counterparts, according to Jonathan Pontell, who coined the term “Generation Jones” several years ago.
“The term comes from the idea of a large, anonymous generation,” Mr. Pontell, 50, said from his office in Los Angeles. “It comes from the slang word ‘jones’ — a craving or yearning. Like you’re jonesing for something. We’re the ones who, as teenagers, made that a popular term.”
Those who now range in age from 43 to 54 were too young to get involved heavily with the upheaval of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War in the 1960s, but were old enough to absorb some of the idealism of the era. When Jonesers came of age in the mid-1970s and early ’80s, Watergate, gas shortages and the Iranian hostage crisis had created the “Me Generation,” leaving millions nowhere to focus that idealism.
Younger boomers were left with an “unrequited jonesing quality” that was answered with President-elect Obama’s “Yes, we can” campaign message.
“It’s sort of relevant now because we are at a point to connect with those youthful dreams,” Mr. Pontell said.
So what are Jonesers jonesing for? Many things, Mr. Pontell said.
“We’re asking ourselves, ‘Is this all there is?’ ” he said.
Every generation gets to that middle age and has that now-or-never feeling. This generation, whose members are taking stock and reassessing their lives, still are young enough to change jobs, careers and move to new cities, he noted.
Chattanoogan Amy McGauley, 50, a self-employed massage therapist, said she feels the difference between herself and older boomers.
“I certainly don’t feel like I’m as settled as they are,” she said. “Their life is all defined and most are set in everything they’re going to do.”
But Ms. McGauley said she’s still in the “figuring-it-out stage.”
“Not everyone in our generation is looking to retire,” she said. “We’re still young enough that we’re still wanting to learn and do different things. And whatever little we may have had saved for retirement is mostly lost, so it’s almost like we’re starting over. We’re not in a comfort zone.”
Her friend, Joe Nivert, 63, retired from Firestone and settled into a life of cycling and occasional day trading, she said.
“He’s retired, calm and comfortable, and I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do to get my life in order,” Ms. McGauley said.
Tatjana Meerman, 49, publisher of Packaged Facts, a source for market data, trends and analysis in consumer industries, said generalizing about generations is tricky, but those on the trailing edge of the boomer generation are really closer to Generation X (those born 1964-1979).
“The leading edge boomers, the older ones, got all the good jobs. The trailing edge got the back burner and had to be more flexible and struggle more,” she said.
Jonesers are more flexible and less conservative. “Those are attributes also given to Generation X,” she said.