hi-bush-hw-852

Former U.S. president George H.W. Bush with his wife, Barbara, in June. He has been treated for bronchitis. (Charles Krupa/AP Photo)

Former President George H.W. Bush's condition continued to improve Saturday, prompting doctors to move him out of intensive care, a spokesman said.

"President Bush's condition has improved, so he has been moved today from the intensive care unit to a regular patient room at The Methodist Hospital to continue his recovery," family spokesman Jim McGrath said Saturday. "The Bushes thank everyone for their prayers and good wishes."

Bush was hospitalized Nov. 23 for treatment of a bronchitis-related cough. He was moved to intensive care at the Houston hospital on Dec. 23 after he developed a fever.

On Friday, McGrath said Bush had improved since arriving in the ICU. He said he was alert and in good spirits and was even doing some singing.

Jean Becker, Bush's longtime Houston chief of staff, said "most of the civilized world" contacted her Wednesday after word spread that Bush had been placed in intensive care unit when physicians were having difficulty bringing a fever under control.

She said updates about Bush's condition have been limited "out of respect for President Bush and the Bush family who, like most of us, prefer to deal with health issues in privacy." She said another factor was "because he is so beloved we knew everyone would overreact."

"I hope you all know how much your love, concern and support are appreciated," Becker said.

Persistent fever

It was hoped Bush would be well enough to spend Christmas at home. But while his cough eased, he developed a persistent fever and his condition was downgraded to "guarded."

The former president has had visits from family and friends, including longtime friend James Baker III, his former Secretary of State. Bush's daughter, Dorothy, arrived Wednesday from her home in Bethesda, Md. Other visitors have included his sons George W. Bush, the 43rd president, and Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor.

Bush and his wife, Barbara, live in Houston during the winter and spend their summers at a home in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Lost to Clinton

Bush, the 41st president, had served two terms as Ronald Reagan's vice president when he was elected in 1988 to succeed Reagan. Four years later, after a term highlighted by the success of the 1991 Gulf War in Kuwait, he lost to Democrat Bill Clinton amid voters' concerns about the economy.

Bush was a naval aviator in World War II — at one point the youngest in the Navy — and was shot down over the Pacific. He's skydived on at least three of his birthdays since leaving the White House, most recently when he turned 85.

He left New England for an oil business job in West Texas in 1948. He's also been a Republican congressman from Texas, U.S. ambassador to China and CIA director.

Bush suffers from a form of Parkinson's disease that forced him in recent years to use a motorized scooter or wheelchair for mobility.