PADUCAH, Ky. (AP) â€” George W. Bush stepped up his appeal to senior citizens Friday, proposing federal money and scholarships for volunteers among ``the healthiest, most energetic, best-educated generation of seniors in history.''
The Republican presidential candidate proposed a ``Silver Scholarship'' program in which the elderly would volunteer as tutors in after-school programs in exchange for $1,000 educational scholarships. Seniors could give the scholarships to their children, their grandchildren or other children in need.
Bush, speaking at the McCracken County Senior Center, also said that as president he would seek to increase annual funding for the Senior Corps from $183 million to $250 million within five years. His goal is to allow the Senior Corps, which is made up of four separate community-service programs that enlist 500,000 seniors nationwide as volunteers, to increase the number of participants by 50 percent.
He said of today's senior citizens: ``They have more free time and they want to use it. They have the wisdom of years and they want to share it.''
Outside the senior center, about a dozen people protested Bush's proposal to modify Social Security rules to allow workers to invest part of their payroll taxes in the stock market. They waved signs with phrases such as ``Social Security First'' and ``Save It Don't Scrap It.''
Inside, the seniors warmly received Bush. Speaking to them in front of a banner bearing the words ``Saving Social Security Helping Senior Citizens,'' he promised, ``When I become president, nobody is going to mess with your benefits or Social Security.''
Bush also promised to improve Medicare by adding prescription drug benefits and encouraging greater use of modern medical technology during diagnosis and treatment.
He later stopped by a barbecue restaurant in Hopkinsville, then headed to Bowling Green to tour a Corvette assembly plant.
Bush was returning to Texas Friday night.
About 200 supporters and 15 protesters greeted him outside the Woodshed BBQ House in Hopkinsville. About 80 more people inside cheered and whooped as he entered.
Kentucky's primary election is Tuesday. In addition to Bush, the names of Sen. John McCain, Alan Keyes, Steve Forbes and Gary Bauer will be on the Republican presidential ballot.
Since 1964, every president elected has won Kentucky.