UPDATE: FORMER US president George Bush Snr, who is in hospital suffering a chronic cough, is out of intensive care.
"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," the spokesman Jim McGrath said in an email on Saturday.
Doctors had initially hoped to have the elder statesman home for Christmas, but he was instead forced to spend the holiday in the hospital, where he was joined by his wife Barbara, son Neil and grandson Pierce.
"I wouldn't say he was able to celebrate it in the traditional sense," McGrath said. "His family was with him, and he's conscious and he's able to engage in humorous banter with his doctor."
McGrath later told AFP doctors were "cautiously optimistic", but that there was no talk yet of a discharge date.
Bush Sr, a Republican, served just a single term in the White House from 1989 to 1993, despite sending US troops to victory in Iraq in the first Gulf War, expelling Saddam Hussein's forces from Kuwait.
He was seen as a moderate, low-key president compared with the showmen Ronald Reagan, who preceded him, and Bill Clinton, who followed, but respect for his hard-edged realism in foreign policy has grown since his electoral defeat.
Domestically, he suffered a loss of support among his own conservative base after being forced to abandon his campaign vow: "Read my lips. No new taxes."
The decorated World War II veteran served in a number of top government posts, including as vice president, director of the Central Intelligence Agency and US ambassador to the United Nations.
Although he was dogged by a reputation as a wimp and his standing suffered in difficult economic times for the United States, he heads an impressive political dynasty that may yet have a future in high office.
His son George W. Bush served two terms as president and also went to war with Iraq, this time sending US-led troops all the way to Baghdad to overthrow Saddam, whom he had wrongly accused of hoarding weapons of mass destruction.
The younger Bush's term ended in 2008 on a low note with the economy in deep crisis, tens of thousands of US troops still fighting in Iraq and the author of the 9/11 attacks, Osama Bin Laden, still at large.
But George H.W. Bush's older son, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, is still seen as an influential player within the Republican Party, and may one day launch a presidential bid of his own.
On December 12, while Bush Sr was already in hospital, he learned his granddaughter Jenna Bush Hager, daughter of George W. Bush, was pregnant with her first child. He was said to be "over the moon" about the news.